“Duality of Humanity 4,” a mural by Shepard Fairey, features a child carrying a rifle and is based on his print of the same name which incorpores the work of legendary photojournalist Al Rockoff. Fairey writes on his site obeygiant.com that:
These images draw parallels between the complex emotions surrounding the Vietnam War and those felt now about the invasion of Iraq
The mural was installed with permission on the wall of MAC Audio-Video, across from an elementary school in Covington, Kentucky–one of 14 different murals that Fairey put up with permission around Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky as part of the solo exhibition of his work, Shepard Fairey: Supply and Demand, on display at the Contemporary Arts Center in nearby Cincinnati through Aug. 22.
On Thursday, Michael Claypool, the owner of the MAC store, had the mural painted over. Claypool told Cincinnati.com:
We had no clue what they were going to put up. We were not advised in advance. When it went up, we were the first to think it was offensive.
The CAC received more than 60 responses to its call for mural sites earlier this year, including from MAC Productions and several other Covington sites submitted by the Covington Arts District. Fairey has been choosing the final mural locations from the list, without announcing where he’s going or what images he’s putting up.
Claypool said that if he had seen the “Duality of Humanity 4” mural in advance, he would have suggested that Fairey move it elsewhere and put up a different mural on his building. He said he didn’t think his location across the street from an elementary school was an appropriate place for an image of a child soldier.
Fairey told a local news station that he didn’t know the building was across from an elementary school, but that he might have been willing to make some changes if he had known there were concerns. The artist also said that he
I felt like it was very obvious that it was about promoting peace and discouraging violence but not everybody agreed, obviously…It’s not hurtful so much as it is discouraging that there can’t even be a discussion about it.
While the elementary school received some complaints about the mural from parents and visitors, Debra Vance, the district’s director of communications and equity relations said that no one from the school or Covington Independent Public Schools asked that the mural be painted over or removed. The district however felt the image of the child soldier would be better suited elsewhere.
Our concern was for the smaller children seeing the mural. As adults, we have the maturity level and experience to look at the entire piece and draw a conclusion about it. Little children, they’ll just see a little boy with a big gun.
Vance went on to say that had educators known in advance, they could have prepared lesson plans to address the mural’s content. The school year ends May 28, so the mural would have been visible to students for another week.
Natalie Bowers, Covington’s arts district manager said the city of Covington did not play a part in the decision to paint over the mural. She explained that no one involved in the mural project wanted to censor Fairey.
But store owner Claypool said:
If he wanted to make a statement, he should have done it 20 blocks away.
Fairey is DJing tomorrow night at the CAC benefit.