An artist’s political painting that depicts President Barack Obama like Jesus Christ, donning a Crown of Thorns, is being called “blasphemous” and “shameful” online and has led to “hate mail” pouring in.
Michael D’Antuono’s painting, which is on display at the Bunker Hill Community College Art Gallery until December 15, is part of an exhibit called “Artists on the Stump—the Road to the White House 2012.”
The exhibit has been running since October and the Obama painting is one of several pieces D’Antuono has on display.
D’Antuono told BostInno that the painting “does not reflect” his opinions, but is more of a “mirror to the individual viewers pre-conceived ideas and prejudices.”
That’s why he called the painting, which shows the president with his arms stretched out over the Presidential Seal, much like Jesus’ arms are stretched out on the Cross, “The Truth.”
“I wasn’t comparing the President to Christ. I just used visual imagery that was already associated with Obama at the time,” said D’Antuono. “I believe it was the conservative media and John McCain jealous of his mass appeal and hero worship who made the Jesus reference and sarcastically referred to Barack as ‘The One.'”
According to D’Antuono, the painting was originally supposed to showcase in New York City in April 2009, on Obama’s 100th Day in office, but the unveiling was cancelled due to a flood of public outrage.
The artist said he received thousands of emails and phone calls about the painting before it went public.
“I reluctantly acquiesced to my family’s wishes that I cancel the show in New York due to their concern about my safety. I regretted the decision pretty quickly, feeling it was wrong to forfeit my first amendment rights just because some people were offended,” he told BostInno on Tuesday.
Now, with the unveiling of the painting here in Boston, D’Antuono said the “hate mail” is starting to come in again, but he isn’t too concerned.
“It’s too soon to tell if it will reach the proportions it did in 2009. It very well could, but I’d like to think there are more important things to be angry about than my painting,” said D’Antuono.
On Facebook, however, users from the Boston-area have lashed out at D’Antuono’s painting, calling it “blasphemous” and “disrespectful.”
Another Facebook user responded by saying the artist “should be ashamed of himself” for drawing this. Others, however, didn’t bat an eyelash at the painting.
“Where’s my who cares button?” asked Steve Donovan.
BostInno reached out to Bunker Hill Community College’s art director, but has not received a reply, but D’Antuono said thousands of people have been to the exhibit at the school without incident.
” I didn’t notice the piece receiving more attention than my other pieces at the opening reception I attended,” he said. “Those offended by the piece you shouldn’t come to an exhibition where it’s being displayed, nor should they try to deprive others who wish to see it, the opportunity.”