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.
Design by Galila Mesfin Original image by Collier Schoor
Placemaking and Mural Execution by Chris Devins
Ladies, be all you can be! pic.twitter.com/Ahk2KsLhqk
— Chris Devins (@LeagueOfExtra) April 25, 2017
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.
Part 1 - Forever Queen 👸🏾 Digital drawing on a photo of @michelleobama ✊🏾❤️✊🏾 Original photo - Collier Schorr . . #nubian #blackart #digitaldrawing #phontart #supportblackart #art #illustration #drawing #draw #TagsForLikes #picture #artist #sketch #artsy #instaart #beautiful #instagood #gallery #masterpiece #creative #photooftheday #instaartist #graphic #graphics #artoftheday #phoneart #supportblackart #melanin #African #blackartist @_blackqueens
A post shared by G (@thick_east_african_girl) on Oct 30, 2016 at 9:45am PDT
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.
How can you just steal someone's artwork... someone's hard work and claim it like it's yours... how can you go on record and say you designed this... this is so disheartening and so disrespectful on so many levels... like this man seriously created a gofundme page, raised money and did this... it's one thing to share or even profit from someone's work but to claim it as yours is just wrong! Thank you to those who DM and messaged me to let me know what was going on @dnainfochi you guys should take this article down because this man stole this. I wouldn't mind if he had given me credit or said he took the design from another artist but saying you designed it is just wrong! The man is a teacher for God's sake and said he was doing this to create positivity for his students and community... but he didn't think that stealing a young girl's artwork and making a profit out of it does more damage than good.
A post shared by G (@thick_east_african_girl) on Apr 21, 2017 at 6:13pm PDT
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.