MLK Deserves Better Than a Godawful Sculpture

MLK Deserves Better Than a Godawful Sculpture

MLK Deserves Better Than a Godawful Sculpture

No, not the sculpture above. That massive monument dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr., is part of his national memorial which stands in Washington, DC. The awful piece of art to which I’m referring is the new MLK bronze sculpture just unveiled in Boston.

The work is entitled “The Embrace,” and it is based upon this 1964 photo of King and his wife Coretta, when MLK was photographed hugging Mrs. King after he learned of his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.

A group called “Embrace Boston” spearheaded the project over a five-year period. The group employed Brooklyn artist Hank Willis Thomas to create the 22-foot high, nearly 20-ton sculpture to honor MLK and his wife. “Embrace Boston” claims that they are all about “racial and economic justice” activism, and their website also includes this:

“Working at the intersection of arts and culture, community, and research to dismantle structural racism. We see a radically inclusive and equitable Boston where everyone belongs and Black people prosper, grounded in joy, love, and well-being.”

As for Thomas himself — his website says that he is an artist who works “with themes related to perspective, identity, commodity, media, and popular culture.” His progressive art themes have included a neon installation in San Francisco called “Love Over Rules.” Another piece in Opa Locke, FL, is called “All Power to All People.” Plus, in 2017 Thomas received the “Soros Equality Fellowship.”

Need I say more?

Of course, ABC’s Good Morning America gushed over the MLK sculpture on Sunday morning.


People Have Questions About That MLK Sculpture

It’s rather disturbing that the new sculpture features only disembodied arms without heads. But you know how people look at clouds and see different images? People not so artsy or progressive as Hank Willis Thomas and “Embrace Boston” see other images — and they’re shocking.

Darleen wrote about the MLK behemoth on her newest edition of “Sunday Morning Cafe Cocktails.” She called the artwork “excremental.”

“Now far be it from me to point out that a lot of what passes for public-funded art is more excremental than not. But so literally?”

The website Not The Bee said bluntly that “Boston just honored MLK with a statue that looks like a butt.”

But that was mild, in the anatomical sense. There were those who saw hands holding male genitalia aloft.

Even Coretta Scott King’s cousin, Seneca Scott, thinks the sculpture looks like a, ahem, male member. He told the New York Post:

“The mainstream media … was reporting on it like it was all beautiful, ’cause they were told they had to say that. But then when it came out, a little boy pointed out — ‘That’s a penis!’ and everyone was like, ‘Yo, that’s a big old dong, man …”

But before anyone hisses “that’s raycissss,” here’s a black journalist from Boston who finds the sculpture appalling, as well as disrespectful.


What in the World Was the Artist Thinking?

When I first saw the Boston MLK sculpture, I thought of an art installation that stands in front of a local church (no, not mine). Like “The Embrace,” this piece also features disembodied arms, but in this case they form a heart. Get it?

This is how the sculpture appears from the drive leading out of the church parking lot. But when you see it from the street, it looks like blobs with hands attached. Yet it looked even worse when the church first installed the sculpture several years ago, because then it had a blood-red hue. I called it the “Blood Clot Sculpture” back then. Thankfully the weather has bleached it out over the years.

MLK sculpture

Personal photo.

I’m not sure the church considered how it would appear to the public when they installed this art. Just like I’m not sure that the MLK sculptor contemplated how his work would appear from all angles, either.

My husband is an illustrator and designer, with art as his lifetime career. He’s not a sculptor, but after spending decades as a professional artist, he says this:

“Sometimes illustrations look better in my head than when they’re executed.” 

Perhaps Hank Willis Thomas should’ve thought of that before he foisted this horrendous “tribute” to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the weekend before his national holiday. Perhaps “Embrace Boston” should’ve embraced a different artist, or at least vetted the concept he had in mind before this all came to fruition. But Hank Willis Thomas fit nicely into their progressive narrative, so it was all good.

Epic fail, Boston. Epic fail. Dr. and Mrs. King deserve better than this.


Featured image: personal photo.

Written by

Kim is a pint-sized patriot who packs some big contradictions. She is a Baby Boomer who never became a hippie, an active Republican who first registered as a Democrat (okay, it was to help a sorority sister's father in his run for sheriff), and a devout Lutheran who practices yoga. Growing up in small-town Indiana, now living in the Kansas City metro, Kim is a conservative Midwestern gal whose heart is also in the Seattle area, where her eldest daughter, son-in-law, and grandson live. Kim is a working speech pathologist who left school system employment behind to subcontract to an agency, and has never looked back. She describes her conservatism as falling in the mold of Russell Kirk's Ten Conservative Principles. Don't know what they are? Google them!

  • Anna A says:

    The conversation about sculpture is making me appreciate classical ones even better. In part because of having to consider all the angles that it can be viewed from.

    Actually, now that the color has gone from bright red to a mahogany shade, that heart/hands is nice

  • Bruce says:

    What is this “racial EQUITY” of which these “people” speak?

  • There are two things positive about this piece. First, it is made of metal. Second, it is firmly supported at three widely separated points.

    The “anti-racist” idiots are going to find it EXTREMELY difficult to destroy it, like they did the memorial to black Civil War soldiers.

  • Citizen Tom says:

    Here is the artist’s website: There is a lot of silly stuff, but there are also examples that show the man is gifted.

    My guess is that Thomas has the ability to do decent work, but decent work takes a lot more time and effort. Consider how much of his time he saved by just doing the arms and hands. At the same time, Thomas probably garnered much more publicity. If Thomas’ sculpture had done justice to that picture, my guess is that over time his statue of MLK and his lady would have become relatively famous. Controversy, however, produces instant notoriety.

    if I am right, then Thomas is wasting his talent producing ugly art just for the sake of controversy that inspires silly people to support him because he is black. Another example of the soft bigotry of low expectations, I suppose.

    There is a certain irony in this. Don’t many racists think blacks have a special gift for art? Isn’t the race problem the bigoted notion that blacks are deficient in other mental capacities? So, I am sort of puzzled as to why it is racist to say an art piece produced by a black is ugly.

  • Mad Celt says:

    Art that elevates another human bring is idolatry.

  • Htos1av says:

    From the side, it looks like a r*m job!

  • Stephen C says:

    The kindest observation I’ve heard, “Looks like someone holding a liver.”

  • agimarc says:

    “MLK Deserves Better Than a Godawful Sculpture”

    Correction: You forgot the word “another.”

    The greatest sadness about the DC MLK sculpture is that it looks Soviet. Quite the insult to a Republican, though likely intentional. Cheers –

  • GWB says:

    No, not the sculpture above.
    Well, that one is awful, too. Not the bit of him, necessarily, but the whole memorial is Soviet Functional style. And most of the quotes they pulled for it were his communist-leaning ones (about war and economics). I do not believe his most aspirational quote – the one from that famous speech – is even there.

    to dismantle structural racism
    Since these people have no grasp of reality, you also know – immediately – anything they touch will be devoid of reason and beauty. Everyone involved with this should have seen this horror coming from a mile away.

    themes related to perspective
    Well, I would say that’s the primary failure of this sculpture….

    progressive art themes
    Well, that’s not surprising in the least.

    a little boy pointed out
    I loved the allusion to The Emperor’s New Clothes.

    What a huge swing and miss
    Again, anyone could have seen this coming, based on the sculptors bona fides and the org that hired him.

    the “Blood Clot Sculpture”
    Oy vey. Must be some progressives in that church. Because only progressives would find that beautiful. Blecch.

    Just like I’m not sure that the MLK sculptor contemplated how his work would appear from all angles, either.
    Yeah, well, that’s like the sculptor’s only job.

    Once again, the progressives ruin it for everyone. “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

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