Why Non-White Artists Want Emmett Till Painting Destroyed

'Open Casket' is being called a 'mockery' and an 'injustice'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 22, 2017 4:04 PM CDT
Painting of Emmett Till's Body by White Artist Draws Protests
A painting of Emmett Till's body created by a white artist is drawing protests in New York.   (Twitter)

A painting featured in the Whitney Biennial, which opened last Friday in New York, is proving so controversial that not only is it sparking protests but fellow artists are outright calling for its destruction, the Guardian reports. The painting, Open Casket by Dana Schutz, is a depiction of Emmett Till's body after the 14-year-old black boy was murdered by white men in 1955. Till had been falsely accused of flirting with a white woman. Schutz is also a white woman, and that's the problem, according to those protesting her painting. “It’s not acceptable for a white person to transmute Black suffering into profit and fun,” says an open letter from artist Hannah Black quoted in artnet News. More than 30 other non-white artists have signed the letter.

While Black is calling for the destruction of Open Casket, another artist, Parker Bright, has been standing in front of it for hours at a time since Friday, blocking views of the painting while wearing a shirt that reads "Black death spectacle." He calls Open Casket a "mockery" and an "injustice," the New York Times reports. Schutz, who has also painted Michael Jackson's autopsy and a fight between Jay Z and Solange Knowles, says she created Open Casket "through empathy with [Till's] mother." “I don’t know what it is like to be black in America, but I do know what it is like to be a mother," the Guardian quotes Schutz as saying. The curators of the Whitney Biennial have met with Bright but are standing behind Open Casket. (The woman whose accusation doomed Till has admitted making up parts of her story.)

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