Art And Response

Michael D’Antuono

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Michael D’Antuono is known for making art that challenges people to think more deeply about sociopolitical issues. His collectors range from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Pete Seeger and his work has received high praise from fellow artists Shepard Fairey and Banksy with whom he has exhibited.

In 2009 D’Antuono created what arguably the most controversial painting of the millennium, titled, “The Truth.” The provocative piece depicts President Obama standing in front of the presidential seal in a crucifixion like pose, ignited such great protest that D’Antuono had to cancel his planned installation in New York’s Union Square Park on President Obama’s 100th day in office. The painting became an international news story with Michael receiving thousands of angry emails from the religious right, who misinterpreted the art as blasphemy. D’Antuono finally had the opportunity to exercise his first amendment right to exhibit the painting at an art exhibition in Boston in 2012. Once again the painting created a firestorm. Former Presidential candidate Herman Caine denounced the piece and the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, called for it’s removal. Surprisingly, Glenn Beck defended the artist’s right to exhibit his art, devoting a couple of shows to it.

D’Antuono’s art was involved in another controversy in 2013, when George Zimmerman capitalized on his notoriety gotten from killing Trayvon Martin by auctioning his first painting on eBay. In response, D’Antuono decided to auction his painting, “A Tale Of Two Hoodies” on eBay with 50% of the proceeds going to The Trayvon Martin Foundation. The piece depicts a KKK hooded police officer pointing his gun at a black child who is offering him candy. On the very same day that eBay allowed George Zimmerman  to complete his auction, earning him $100,000, eBay pulled D’Antuono’s auction despite the fact that D’Antuono’s was well on track to surpass Zimmerman’s price. eBay cited their strict policy of “not promoting hate groups or selling any KKK related items on their site as the reason even though they had over 1,600 other items listed on their site related to the KKK when they removed D’Antuono’s.

“A Tale Of Two Hoodies” continues to be the object of censorship and controversy. In January, 2016, a high school teacher in Dayton, Arizona was suspended for using the painting as part of her final exam after parents at Dayton High School expressed outrage. In February of 2016, local police in Oldham County, Kentucky demanded another high school student’s homage to the piece be removed from exhibition. In March, a 10th grade student in Denver Colorado agreed to remove her homage to D’Antuono’s piece from a public exhibition after outraged local police unions voiced objections to the piece.

The artist has recently completed a short film on Institutional racism and is currently seeking funding to expand it into a full length documentary.

D’Antuono’s attempts to inspire critical thinking with his provocative takes on racism, class warfare, the environment, corporate influence and other hot-button issues have been met with censorship and derision by those who want to protect the status-quo. Yet he continues to make art that speaks truth to power, perpetuating the historic role of the artist to spark social change.