An art museum in Richmond, Virginia, is commenting on the city’s many Confederate monuments with a statue of its own by the artist who made Barack Obama’s official portrait.
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts unveiled “Rumors of War,” a statue by artist Kehinde Wiley that, like many Confederate statues, depicts a person on horseback.
However, the model in Wiley’s work isn’t a white male Civil War general, but a Black man with dreads, wearing a hoodie and Nikes.
The bronze sculpture, which was previously displayed in New York’s Times Square before being moved to the Virginia museum, was directly inspired by the statue of Confederate Army General James Ewell Brown “J.E.B.” Stuart created by Frederick Moynihan in 1907.
It “commemorates African American youth lost to the social and political battles being waged throughout our nation,” according to a museum release.
Wiley said the work was inspired by his own reaction to seeing Confederate monuments. Critics say Confederate monuments are tributes to racism, and have long called for them to be removed from cities around the U.S.
“What does it feel like if you are black and walking beneath this? We come from a beautiful, fractured situation,” the artist said in a statement. “Let’s take these fractured pieces and put them back together.”
During Tuesday’s unveiling, Wiley expressed hope for the future.
“There’s something changing in these winds. I think we’re all fed up with a lot of things. I think artists have that unique responsibility to use that energy for something else,” he said, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “I’m tired of the destruction. I’m tired of the strife. I think we can do better.”
He added: “I want this ... to be about black men and their place in this society. A society that can say yes to black men.”
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney (D) noted something else significant about the statue, the paper reported.
“It’s taken more than 100 years, but the rest of Richmond residents finally have a monument of a man on a horse that looks like them,” he said.