While not meeting the same level of scrutiny as an image of former President Barack Obama as an African witch-doctor, a portrayal of Michelle Obama as an African queen is still facing controversy.
…over charges of plagiarism.
Artist Chris Devins finds himself facing a backlash of criticism after painting a mural of the former first lady on a building in the South Side of Chicago — not for portraying her as an Egyptian queen, but for copying the work of another artist.
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Design by Galila Mesfin Original image by Collier Schoor
Placemaking and Mural Execution by Chris Devins
Ladies, be all you can be! pic.twitter.com/Ahk2KsLhqk
— Chris Devins (@LeagueOfExtra) April 25, 2017
The mural is all but identical to a portrait done last year by Gelila Mesfin, an Ethiopian art student in Rhode Island. Mesfin was inspired by a photograph of Obama by Collier Schorr that was featured in the New York Times’ magazine, and she has consistently credited Schorr, according to CNN.
Mesfin was none too pleased, responding to the controversy on Instagram.
“How can you just steal someone’s artwork… someone’s hard work and claim it like it’s yours…” she wrote in an Instagram post.
“How can you go on record and say you designed this… this is so disheartening and so disrespectful on so many levels…” Mesfin added. “It’s one thing to share or even profit from someone’s work but to claim it as yours is just wrong!”
In a follow-up statement, Mesfin said she has been in contact with Devins and hopes to resolve the issue “in an amicable and professional manner.”
“I only ask that everyone keep this positive towards him; I preach love, not anger or hate of any kind,” she said.
Devins, who raised nearly $12,000 in support of the project, told CNN he did nothing wrong.
“I credited Ms. Mesfin for her work immediately,” he said. “I’ve taken the heat and will gladly do so as long as the kids have a mural they can look up to.”
The reaction on social media included the obvious question: “What did [Michelle Obama] accomplish exactly?”
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Leftists: Such an inspirational and incredible person.
America: what did she accomplish exactly?
— Wesley (@TheClassicIndy) April 30, 2017
And while it remains to be seen how forgiving Mesfin may be, social media users were not too kind toward Devins.
Here’s a sampling of responses from Twitter:
@LeagueOfExtra whatever your counsel required you to post publicly here, you’re still a plagiarist. that stain will never escape your career reputation ??
— patience grasshopper (@patienceinbee) April 25, 2017
@patienceinbee @LeagueOfExtra This dude slapped a sticker on a wall and calls himself an artist. Smh.
— Glocktavious 9Mily? (@wyt_niga) April 26, 2017
@LeagueOfExtra Take your signature off the mural. It’s plagiarism to do otherwise. And Gelila Mesfin dictates whether her work gets used or not. Not you!
— monica ibe (@MonicaIbe) April 30, 2017
@LeagueOfExtra You enlarged another persons work. You are not an artist on this piece. A planner a fund raiser yes but not an artist.
— Nerissa Vitello (@Nerissa1Love) April 26, 2017
@LeagueOfExtra It’s not inspired by or a remix of. She gave the original artist credit from inception, you did not, then accuse her. Unevolved thievery.
— Nerissa Vitello (@Nerissa1Love) April 26, 2017
@LisaMarieTaco @BlerdyShani @LeagueOfExtra yeah, she STARTED by crediting the source. we’re all pissed that this guy had to have it dragged out of him, & he keeps trying to blame her
— lauren (@laurenbenbrook) April 30, 2017
@LeagueOfExtra you should work at kinkos
— Harry Benson (@TrumpUriNation) April 28, 2017
@LeagueOfExtra ‘Ladies, be all you can be so I can keep taking credit for it!’
— Lauren Matthews (@kagekabuki) April 27, 2017
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