St. Louis artist Kelly Latimore's painting, "Mama,"

St. Louis artist Kelly Latimore's painting, "Mama," was stolen from a wall at Catholic University of America last week.  He and the university are receiving threats.

A painting by St. Louis artist Kelly Latimore depicting Mary and Jesus with brown skin was stolen Nov. 23, 2021 from a wall outside the Mary Mirror of Justice Chapel at Catholic University of America law school in Washington, D.C.

The contemporary painting “Mama” has Mary cradling the body of the crucified Jesus in ‘Pieta’ style, which means pity or compassion. The Christ figure in the 2020 painting has a resemblance to the late George Floyd, who was killed by a former Minneapolis police office in 2020. 

According to a Religion News Service report, the painting and Latimore were targeted after the Daily Signal, a website owned by the conservative Heritage Foundation, posted a critical story about it on Nov. 22. An online petition claiming to be from Catholic University of America students gathered more than 4,500 signatures.

Latimore, who is white and says he attended a white evangelical church as a youth, called threats he received “white supremacist, racist stuff.”

Included were derogatory remarks about Floyd, and objections to any depiction of Jesus as Black. Latimore said the painting, commissioned to mourn Floyd’s death, is consistent with the “nature of the personhood of Christ.”

Latimore responded to the events on his Instagram page.

“Many people asked whether the man in the icon was ‘George Floyd or Jesus?’ The answer to that question is ‘yes,’” Latimore wrote.

CUA officials received numerous comments that they characterized as “racist and offensive.” Latimore received death threats. And then the painting disappeared.

Many see the male figure as George Floyd, but our Law School has always seen the figure as Jesus,” CUA President John Garvey said in a statement released Nov. 24. “The painting was put in place last February in a ceremony outside the law school’s Mary Mirror of Justice chapel. The press began covering it this week, leading to criticism on social media and a substantial number of emails and phone calls. Some critics called the image blasphemous because they saw it as deifying or canonizing George Floyd. Some comments that we received were thoughtful and reasonable. Some were offensive and racist. Much of the criticism came from people unconnected to the University.”

Latimore responded to the events on his Instagram page.

“Many people asked whether the man in the icon was ‘George Floyd or Jesus?’ The answer to that question is ‘yes,’” Latimore wrote.

“We bear witness to Christ present in all the crucified people of history. Looking into the eyes of mothers who are continually losing sons and daughters who are chased and unjustly murdered by the state and angry mobs.”

Latimore called the image “Christ in distressing disguise” in a statement to DailyMail.com

“In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus asks us to find him in all people, especially those who suffer, as George Floyd did,” he said.

Last April, Latimore said in an interview on The Christian Century website he was guided by many people’s thoughts as he created“Mama.”

“In the Black community, there’s dialogue about whether continuously showing dead Black bodies is healthy. I worried about that. But several Black friends of mine told me this was needed—’God being present in the dead Black body’—as a way to respond so this doesn’t keep happening. I think ”Mama”encapsulates my favorite part of iconography, the communal aspect. It makes the artist part of the community, part of the whole,” he said.

 

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