UK’s ‘American’ magazine called Michael D’Antuono “one of the world’s most controversial artists.” And quite rightly so. After very successful careers in advertising and illustration, D’Antuono turned his talents to oil painting and quickly made his mark as an artist with a strong political and social agenda. With a piece he entitled “The Truth” he rocketed his way into main stream consciousness.
“The Truth” depicts President Obama standing in front of the presidential seal in a crucifixion like pose. D’Antuono’s original intent for the work was to display it in a mock voting booth and record the diverse interpretations of the piece. He had hoped to show the subjectivity of what we consider to be true and how our perspective is shaped by our political prejudices.
The reaction to “The Truth” was overwhelming, with the majority of criticism coming from the irate Christian Right. Intending the art as a political piece, and unprepared for the uproar, Michael did not go through with the installation. A decision he now regrets, feeling that he ignored his first amendment rights.
Rallied by the lessons he learned with “The Truth,” Michael D’Antuono now actively defends his right to express himself through his art and again has found himself surrounded by controversy.
Inspired by the Trayvon Martin case, with “A Tale of Two Hoodies” D’Antuono hoped to “symbolize the travesty of racially profiling innocent children and how present day prejudices affect policy.” As would be expected of such a poignant piece and statement, “A Tale of Two Hoodies” created passionate discourse on The Huffington Post and many sites around the world.
In December of 2013, controversy once again struck Michael D’Antuono, when in response to George Zimmerman (the accused in the Trayvon Martin case) attempting to sell his art on ebay, Michael chose to auction “A Tale of Two Hoodies” on that same site, with fifty-percent of proceeds going directly to the Trayvon Martin Foundation. The controversy may well have ended there, had ebay not decided to pull D’Antuono’s work from their site on the very same day the Zimmerman auction closed at over $100,000. Ebay cited their Hateful or Discriminatory policy as reason for their actions stating “[t]he painting you listed appears to contain images or icons associated with the KKK which are not allowed to be listed on our site as they represent an organization that glorifies hate and violence.” Interestingly, at the time, over 1500 items on ebay would seem to have been depicting the KKK, and a search today would indicate almost 20,000 items listed that relate to the Nazi regime.
At artFido, we actively avoid involving ourselves in politics, and social commentary. That is not our role. Our role is to share more art with more of the world. We don’t wish to express an opinion as to the outcome of the Trayvon Martin case. Nor do we wish to comment on ebay’s policies as to content. Those are none of our concerns. What we do hope to do is support artists like Michael D’Antuono in their right to express an opinion, to question the status quo through art. That is an artist’s right and many would argue is core to the artistic endeavor.
Michael D’Antuono is not the first artist to be affected by controversy or be at the receiving end of hateful comments and actions. Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ” is notorious for its ability to incite rage and on occasion violence. It has been defaced on more than one occasion by those who take violent offense to it and the artist who created it.
As you can see below, Michael D’Antuono doesn’t shy away from creating images that challenge our conceptions. A “Tale of two Hoodies” is a piece charged with meaning and emotion. In some it ilicits pity, in some pain. In others, absolute disdain and hatred. If it did none of these things, would it be art?
“Art is not made to decorate rooms. It is an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy” – Pablo Picasso