The reaction to a painting has one artist feeling “destroyed.”
The Detroit Institute of Arts recently revealed a public work of art. The painting, which had been created for the Sterling Heights Police Department in Michigan, drew backlash on social media, however, with some users reportedly accusing the artist of being a White supremacist.
The painting was titled “To Serve and Protect” and was created by Nicole Macdonald, the Detroit Metro Times reports. Several photos of the artwork were posted online and show that it depicts several cops holding hands with their heads bowed in front of an American flag.
Macdonald, who reportedly describes herself as a socialist, says that the painting was meant to depict a message about police reform. She also said that she understands how people mistook the image for officers bowing and praying in front of an American flag and that she also understands why it might need to be taken down.
Sterling Heights Police Chief Dale Dwojakowski said that the final painting was the result of multiple designs by a couple of artists, including Macdonald.
“Through many meetings with police officers and the artists we came up with what the mural should represent which was: service, honor, family, remembrance, reverence, unity and fraternity,” he told Fox News via email.
He added, “It was definitely a collaboration and all parties were extremely happy.”
According to Macdonald, she was asked to add the American flag, which apparently did not appear in her original sketches. She reportedly told the news outlet, “So people are now saying that it’s like bowing and praying in front of the flag, which is just gross. I mean, I understand the reaction.”
She also said, “I sort of feel like they should (take it down). I mean, I can’t make that call, but at this point I kind of feel like that, because I think that art should serve the public if it’s public art, and the museum is in a majority Black city. And if people find it to be a reflection of hostility, that is not my intention — it is absolutely, 100% opposite my attention.”
While the DIA originally posted an image of the painting to social media, it reportedly removed it due to negative feedback. In a follow-up post, the museum reportedly wrote that it removed the first due to the tone of the comments, but it apparently had to delete that post as well.
Many of the commenters appeared to be angry that taxpayer money may have been used to fund a “pro-cop mural.”
Macdonald, who was reportedly accused by some of being a White supremacist, told the Detroit Metro Times that the response was not what she was expecting. “I’ve never received this kind of reaction, ” she said. “I feel totally destroyed.”
However, Dwojakowski said, “the mural has received a lot of positive attention from our residents who have a strong relationship and partnership with our police department.”
The police chief said that the original oil painting had been hanging in the police department lobby for two years while the outside of the building was remodeled. The mural also incorporates clay tiles made by hand by police officers and their family members, including the daughter of a fallen officer who was just 11 months old when her father was killed 17 years ago.
“The mural serves as a remembrance for the three police officers we lost in the line of duty and we created clay tiles with their names engraved on them as a memorial to those that gave all to this community,” he said.
Macdonald reportedly dedicates much of her artistic practice to celebrating Detroit’s Black history.
A museum spokesperson told the news outlet that the posts were deleted due to a concern for the safety of certain individuals who were being specifically called out and seemingly targeted.
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