Union Square has statues depicting racial injustice

Union Square has statues depicting racial injustice
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Union Square has statues depicting racial injustice

Union Square has statues depicting racial injustice

In Union Square on Friday night, Terence Floyd – a brother of George Floyd, whose May 2020 murder by a police officer prompted a confrontation over police brutality and racial injustice – spoke softly into a microphone.

“These monuments have meaning,” said Mr Floyd as he stood among the large statues of his brother, Representatives John Lewis and Breonna Taylor.

The statues were covered in black cloth, and a growing crowd of people were holding cellphone cameras, ready to capture the moment when Mr Floyd and others uncovered the statues, which were about six feet tall and made of African mahogany plywood. , three-inch thick and coated in bronze metallic paint.

At the time, there were no signs, no pain-filled chants and no gas masks – dramatically different from a year earlier, when Union Square was often a central location where protest nights began or ended. Sometimes dozens of people were arrested. With the sculptures, the place of turmoil became a place to reflect.

Chris Carnabusi, 57, the artist who created the sculptures, said that’s precisely why he chose Union Square for the installation he calls “#SeeInjustice,” which will be on display until October 30.

“It has this history – we’ll call it a protest or a social gathering,” Mr Carnabusi said in an interview. “There was a George Floyd protest at Union Square. In the late 1800s, there were protests there. It has been running for over 100 years. “

Three sculptures were already attracting the attention of passersby on Thursday afternoon, a day before the official presentation.

People thronged around the idols, in search of the right angle to take pictures. Strangers talked to each other about how each person was portrayed.

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Tourist Matias Mayol, 49, from Argentina, said the artwork made him laugh and he had to stop to admire it.

Although he was acquainted with Mr Floyd through the news media in Argentina, he said he had never heard of Taylor, a black medical worker who was shot during an unsuccessful police raid on his apartment. and was stunned to know about his story. . He was also unfamiliar with Mr. Lewis, a staunch civil rights activist who was beaten up by police officers and fractured in the skull during the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” protests, as he and hundreds of others marched through Selma, Ala. Tried to march to Montgomery. . He died of pancreatic cancer in July 2020.

Mr Mayol said there was something supernatural about the idols. “I stopped because I love the colors, and they look like angels,” he said. “They are up in the sky and watching us to see the change.”

So Hayes, 22, from Los Angeles, said she thought the message would have a greater impact if it highlighted all those harmed by police, although she understands why the artist chose Mr. Floyd and Ms. Taylor.

“It would be better if every single person who died in police violence last year gets their stand and the entire park is covered,” he said. “But right now it seems that only two people matter.”

Last year’s murder of Mr Floyd, 46, Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer who was later fired and convicted of murder, inspired Mr Carnabusi.

Already feeling emotionally exhausted from the pandemic lockdown, Mr Carnabucchi said he had felt “helpless” watching the protests. His wife encouraged him to channel his grief into his art, and he said that he wanted to capture the moment in a meaningful way.

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“We really started thinking about creating an exhibition and bringing the pieces around to maintain awareness,” he said. “And even raise some money for foundations that are geared to those in need.”

Mr. Carnabusi founded FrontArt, an organization that aims to connect artists with social justice who create public art, along with Andrew Cohen and Lindsay Eshelman, who are producers.

But first, Mr. Carnabucci wanted the blessings of the Floyd family. Terrence Floyd approved. “He never wavered in his support and his love for the project,” said Mr. Carnabusi. “And it also gave us something to work with, which is essentially building the program that would benefit his foundation.”

Mr Floyd said the meaning behind the name Front Art was a major reason he felt comfortable working with the group on the installation.

“It really is art that is confrontational,” he said Friday night. “It cannot be avoided. It must not be avoided. It has to be known.”

Quick response codes will soon be displayed at the base of each sculpture, Mr. Carnabusi said, so people can donate to charities benefiting efforts named after the sculptures’ subjects: We Are Floyd, the Breonna Taylor Foundation and John and Lillian Miles Lewis Foundation.

For some passersby, the statues provoked anger and despair.

Yolanda Burns, 59, of Manhattan, said the sculptures were an important reminder that little had changed since the racial unrest and protests in the summer of 2020. “It’s 2021 – who hopes it’s still going?” he said. “It looks like this is going to be a lifelong thing, so I want to make sure my daughter understands the people whose lives have been sacrificed.”

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Union Square is the latest stop for the sculpture of George Floyd, who spent a couple of weeks on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn over the summer. Less than a week after its unveiling in Brooklyn, it was defaced with the logo of a white supremacist group. Mr Carnabusi said he decided to paint this and other statues, so if someone tries to deface them again, it will be easy to restore them.

He said he hoped the statues during the demonstration in Union Square would be spared.

“I just want people to really look at the idols and think within themselves how they really feel about them,” he said. “And if we can just create an environment where we can discuss it, then I think I’ve done my job.”

Jason Woody, 37, of Richmond, and his partner, Maria Weatherborne, 40, of San Francisco, met last year at a protest against George Floyd. Wearing Black Lives Matter cycling regalia, the two said they hope the sculptures will raise awareness and help end systemic racism.

“I think there is a way that everyone can find a way to engage in making things better,” Mr. Woody said.

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