Mural of Michelle Obama sparks huge controversy amid plagiarism claims

A mural of the former-first lady Michelle Obama painted on a building in the South Side of Chicago has sparked an intense debate.

Artist Chris Devins finished painting the mural last Friday and critics soon began criticizing the work, but not for political reasons.

Devins was accused of plagiarism after a photo of the mural surfaced online, with many complaining that the image appeared to be copied from an Ethiopian art student who posted a very similar portrait of the Obama online last year, Gelila Mesfin.

Mesfin responded to outcry over the allegedly plagiarized image.

"How can you just steal someone's artwork... someone's hard work and claim it like it's yours..." Mesfin said on Instagram.

Devin denies that his work constitutes plagiarism, even though he admits he was inspired by it. He says he painted the image after coming across it online -- a technique he claims many mural painters have long practiced.

"I credited Ms. Mesfin for her work immediately. I've taken the heat and will gladly do so as long as the kids have a mural they can look up to," he told CNN.

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He also raised over $10,000 on GoFundMe to pay for the costs of the mural's creation, on which he says would have amounted to about $15,000.

Though Devins says he has not spoken to Mesfin directly in efforts to resolve dispute he says he has been in touch with her attorney and is willing to pay a licensing fee.