An acrylic painting is the subject of heated controversy in the nation’s capitol. It depicts a street scene of a protest over racism. What looks like two pigs dressed as policemen are pointing guns at what appears to be a black wolf. In the background, a crowd of protesters have gathered, while the face of an African American man watches through prison bars, and another man — who is shown being crucified while holding the scales of justice — hovers over the scene.
If it were hanging in an art gallery or museum, it would likely just be seen as a piece of powerful social commentary. But it’s not. The artwork, painted by a high school student for the annual congressional art competition last year, is being displayed in Washington D.C., in an area between the Capitol building and legislative offices.
Citing the fact that the painting disrespects law enforcement and violates the rules of the Capitol complex for what art is acceptable to display, Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter (Calif.) decided last week just to take it down. He didn’t steal it. He simply removed the painting from the wall and took it to the office of Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.)., who is the representative for the artist’s district.
“He had no right to take that picture down,” Clay told the Washington Post. “It’s thievery.” So Clay proceeded to rehang the controversial piece of art.
Now, nearly a week later, the painting has become a political football. It has been removed from the wall and returned to Clay two more times by other representatives who found it offensive. The head of the Congressional Black Caucus is so angry about the whole situation that he has resorted to physical threats.
“We may just have to kick somebody’s ass and stop them,” Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), chairman of the CBC, referring to those who keep taking the picture down.
The issue has been taken all the way up the ladder to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Because some claim the painting violates the rules of the art contest that won it a coveted place on the wall, Ryan has said he would look into having it removed.