Former First Lady was painted by Chicago-based artist Chris Devins as an Egyptian queen. It’s on display on the city’s South Side. He raised $15,000 on GoFundMe to paint it across the street from Bouchet Elementary. Michelle Obama attended the school when it was known as Bryn Mawr School.
But as soon as it went up, people immediately recognized it from another source. It’s a copy of another artist’s work!
As Devins opined, “I wanted to present her as what I think she is, so she’s clothed as an Egyptian queen. I thought that was appropriate.”
But at no point did Devins tell people the image isn’t his:
Pictures of the mural were widely-shared across social media, and it eventually found its way to Gelila Mesfin, an Ethiopian art student in New York.
Mesfin, who shares artwork of her own on Instagram under the name ‘thick_east_african_girl,’ was shocked to see that the South Side painting was almost identical to a digital drawing of Obama she uploaded last November.
Her image was created by editing a picture taken by New York Times photographer Collier Schorr.
The 24-year-old student, who told the Washington Post she was initially flattered her work had seemingly inspired another artist, was quick to fire off a scathing attack on Devins.
‘How can you just steal someone’s artwork… someone’s hard work and claim it like it’s yours… how can you go on record and say you designed this… this is so disheartening and so disrespectful on so many levels,’ Mesfin wrote on Instagram.
LofE truly appreciates the work this great Woman is doing. Looking forward to coming together for the original benefit of Chicago’s youth. pic.twitter.com/9RXlffRu53
— Chris Devins (@LeagueOfExtra) April 23, 2017
The image of the mural went viral online, and that’s how Ethiopian-born artist Gelila Mesfin, the original artist, noticed it:
How can you just steal someone’s artwork… someone’s hard work and claim it like it’s yours… how can you go on record and say you designed this… this is so disheartening and so disrespectful on so many levels… like this man seriously created a gofundme page, raised money and did this… it’s one thing to share or even profit from someone’s work but to claim it as yours is just wrong! Thank you to those who DM and messaged me to let me know what was going on @dnainfochi you guys should take this article down because this man stole this. I wouldn’t mind if he had given me credit or said he took the design from another artist but saying you designed it is just wrong! The man is a teacher for God’s sake and said he was doing this to create positivity for his students and community… but he didn’t think that stealing a young girl’s artwork and making a profit out of it does more damage than good.
@DNAinfoCHI Chris Devins stole someones artwork and raised 12,000 dollars to blow put it up without permission. smh delete this article
— Infinite. (@smoltangerine) April 22, 2017
Once exposed, he explained his decision to copy the image: “I found her picture on Pinterest, and there was no link back anywhere. I wasn’t aware of her or her work until about two weeks ago.’
What do you think about this mural of Michelle Obama as an Egyptian Queen? Please leave us a comment (below) and tell us.