A white artist responds to outcry over her controversial Emmett Till painting

When American artist Dana Schutz decided to paint the mutilated face of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American boy who was tortured and lynched by two white men in 1955, she said she intended to convey the universal horror of the murder and acknowledge the country’s lingering racism.

But her painting, “Open Casket,” currently on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art as part of the museum’s 2017 biennial exhibition, has drawn swift condemnation and protest from a growing number of artists and observers, who say that the painting by a white artist represents nothing more than the exploitation of an excruciating and defining moment in African-American history.

Schutz addressed the mounting controversy in an interview Thursday with Artnet news, acknowledging that “it’s a problematic painting and I knew that getting into it.”

The artist, born in 1976, made the work in response to a slew of shootings of black men by police during the summer of 2016, she said. “The photograph of Emmett Till felt analogous to the time,” she said. “What was hidden was now revealed.”

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