26 December 2013
Less than a year after he became a symbol of apartheid in the US for shooting to death Black teen Trayvon Martin and calling it an act of self-defence, American George Zimmerman has made news again, this time triggered by his newly found love for painting.
The debutant artist, said to be deep in debt, has sold his first painting on eBay for an incredible $100,000 and more. It’s no less than another Christmas miracle for the man who was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter but was acquitted this year. Given the notoriety Zimmerman acquired and his aura of violence, the instantaneous snapping up of his painting reminds one of the fascination a certain section of memorabilia has for prurient collectors, those associated with blood, sadism and suffering. There have been frenzied purchases of items belonging to notorious serial killers and dictators, often at astronomical prices.
Other factors also contribute to make the Zimmerman picture sale so incredible. Themed America, the painting, described by Zimmerman as original and hand-painted, depicts the US flag with the words “God, One Country, with Liberty and Justice for All” superscribed on it. It’s not just Martin’s family who will express reservations about the justice bit. There seems to be something more that is not quite right. Zimmerman’s picture is the clone of an image found at Shutterstock, a web site for stock photographs. Only the colours have been changed and the words added.
Perhaps the unkindest cut is that while eBay auctioned the controversial artist’s offering, it however pulled out a second image by another artist who had critiqued the Zimmerman killing in February 2012. Artist Michael D’Antuono’s image, that shows a Ku Klux Klan-style hooded man pointing a gun at a teenager who is offering candies to him, was removed by the auctioneer on the ground that it was “hateful or discriminatory”. “Any policy that allows a murderer to profit from his crime, but deems art that speaks out against racial injustice and benefits its victims ‘hateful and discriminatory’ needs to be re-evaluated,” D’Antuono wrote in his blog. His image, incidentally, was intended to raise money for a foundation set up in the slain teen’s name to promote social justice. So much for the American Yuletide spirit.