Modern Art In A Nutshell: New "Woke" MLK Sculpture Universally Roasted, Even By His Own Family

Written By BlabberBuzz | Monday, 16 January 2023 19:25
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A brand new $10 million sculpture honoring civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, in Boston has sparked an intense debate among the couple’s family and the public.

The 22-foot bronze statue, titled “The Embrace,” was created by conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas and funded by a public/private partnership. While some members of the King family have praised the sculpture, others have been vocal in their criticism.

Coretta Scott King’s cousin, Seneca Scott, has been especially vocal in his criticism of the sculpture, calling it a “waste of money” and saying it “looks like a penis.” Seneca said to The Post, “It’s doubly insulting to the black community, who still on average … too many of us are below the poverty line. You’re spending $10 million on a bronze statue without heads on it? Man, it’s a joke.”

Some family members found the sculpture “disrespectful” and questioned why the money was not used for more practical purposes. Seneca Scott suggested that the sculpture was a product of “woke” culture and said, “If you went through all of that and that’s what you came up with, something’s wrong.”

Hank Willis Thomas, the artist responsible for the sculpture, said on his website that the sculpture was intended to “get to the heart” of the couple’s legacy. He said, “When we recognize that all storytelling is an abstraction, all representation is an abstraction, hopefully it allows us to be open to more dynamic and complex forms of representation that don’t stick us to narrative that oversimplifies a person or their legacy.”


However, some argue that the sculpture fails to capture the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. In an interview with Good Morning America, Thomas said that the sculpture was meant to depict the hug between the couple after King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He said, “In that embrace, I see so much. I see teamwork, I see joy,” Thomas said, adding, “I see both of their strengths, but especially hers. I see the way that she is really holding him up in this picture and actually recognizing that that is a symbol for a lot of what she did for him, for the family, but also for the country.”


The sculpture comes at a time when the nation is grappling with racial injustice and reckoning with its past. Many in the King family have argued that the money would have been better spent on education, housing, and poverty.

“It’s a slap in the face to the King family and to all of those who are struggling,” said Seneca Scott to The Post. “But it’s also a slap in the face to those of us who have been fighting for justice and equality for years.”

The debate over the sculpture reflects more significant conversations about how best to honor Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. Should the focus be on celebrating their legacy, or should it be on tackling the issues of poverty, inequality, and racial injustice?

Coretta Scott King once said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”