Painting of George Floyd depicted as Jesus stolen twice, prompts ban on white artist’s ‘blasphemous’ work

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A painting purportedly resembling George Floyd as Jesus has been twice stolen from the Washington, D.C.-based Catholic University of America. An investigation is underway into both thefts.

The work by artist Kelly Latimore titled “Mama” reportedly first disappeared shortly after The Daily Signal published an article about it in November 2021, although it apparently was unveiled back in February in a CUA law school ceremony in connection with the celebration of Black History Month.

A smaller version of the mural, which replaced the missing composition, was stolen this month.

“Unfortunately, as the campus community was debating the merits and meaning of this particular work, the original version and a subsequent smaller version were stolen. This is unacceptable behavior in any community; doubly so in an academic one,” CUA President John Garvey reportedly advised the campus community in an email.

After the second pilferage, “the student government…passed a resolution calling for further displays of the work on campus to be banned, citing religious objections,” the New York Times reported. The student group described it as “blasphemous, offensive and at the very least confusing,” and recommended replacements that would “bring forth representation of the African American community in a nonpolitical and uncontroversial way.”

Ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder and other charges in the May 25, 2020, tragic encounter with Floyd that prompted nationwide civil unrest and heightened social justice activism.

The painting emulates the iconic Pieta, except that the Virgin Mary is depicted perhaps cradling Floyd rather than Jesus. “The name of Latimore’s piece, ‘Mama,’ hints at Floyd last words while he begged for mercy as Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck,” the Daily Mail noted.

Upon being asked whether the painting depicts Jesus or George Floyd, Latimore told the New York Times that “It’s not an either-or scenario. Is it George Floyd? Yes. Is it Jesus? Yes. There’s sacredness in every person.”

At the time, the Daily Signal article prompted the university’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter to launch a petition calling for the painting’s removal.

“As students at the Catholic University of America, we believe that it is extremely grave that our university, the official university of the Catholic Church in North America, would cast another in the image of our Lord in this way, particularly for political purposes. No political or social cause ever justifies depicting another in the place of Jesus Christ,” the petition, which has about 5,000 signatures, claimed.

In a November 24 statement after the first theft, President Garvey asserted that “I am sure that most of you have seen some media coverage relating to the image, hung in our Law School, that depicted Mary holding the body of the dead Christ…

“Many see the male figure as George Floyd, but our Law School has always seen the figure as Jesus. We have replaced the picture with an identical, though smaller, copy that hung in our Campus Ministry office. Our ‘no cancellation’ policy does not apply only to the administration. We hope to continue to build on campus a culture that engages in thoughtful dialogue and debate, not the sort of bully tactics epitomized by this theft.”

In a subsequent statement after theft 2.0, according to the Times, Garvey said that “Many saw the figure in the arms of Our Lady as a divinized George Floyd. This interpretation led to accusations that the work was blasphemous, something that is contrary to the respect due God and his holy name. Regardless of your interpretation, it created needless controversy and confusion, for which I am sorry.”

“The artist said someone from the university requested to print the piece for the chapel earlier this year — and that he granted permission free of charge,” the Times noted. Latimore created the original artwork in the summer of 2020 to mourn Floyd’s death.


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