As part of an art competition, a painting titled “Untitled #1” was selected on behalf of Representative Lacy Clay (D-MO). Clay has represented Missouri's 1st Congressional District (St. Louis area) since 2001. He took the seat from his father, William Clay, who held it from 1969-2001.
The piece depicts the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown. A police officer, portrayed as a pig, is pointing a gun at a wolf in plain clothing which appears to be unarmed and holding a sign that says “stop killing.”
The painting now hangs in a tunnel between the U.S. Capitol building and Longworth House Office Building.
The St. Louis County Police Associations reportedly called it a “punch in the mouth.” Fox News's Eric Bolling told viewers to “call your congressman or call Lacy Clay’s office,” in an effort to get it taken down.
Representative Clay previously called it “the most creative expression that I’ve witnessed in the last 16 years," and appears to have no intention of taking the painting down. On Friday, his spokesman issued a statement:
“Members of Congress support student art competitions in our districts but we do not select the young artists and we do not judge the artwork.
"I had no role in selecting the winner of this student art competition and I would never attempt to approve or disapprove artistic expression.
"The U.S. Capitol is a symbol of freedom, not censorship. The young artist chose his own subject and the painting will not be removed.”
Joe Patterson, president of the St. Louis County Police Association challenged the congressman's notion that he can't “censor” the piece. He said:
“We are not about censorship, but good art and good taste are sometimes not the same thing. He’s picking at these wounds that we’re trying to heal.”
Martin Baker ran in the Republican primary in Missouri Congressional District 1 (Clay's home district) in 2010 and 2012. He told Independent Journal Review:
“I respect Clay for his decision, for saying that this is how his constituents feel. But it shows the sad state of affairs of Missouri’s First Congressional District, and that a member of Congress would call that 'acceptable' and promote it on a national stage."
He also echoed Patterson's statement on healing:
“Our district needs to move past the events of Ferguson, and this compounds the division rather than working to heal.”
Jonathon Pulphus Sr., the father of the artist, defended his son's painting. He told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
“It is art. It is meant to evoke emotion and a perspective.”
Last year's winner was a piece titled “Mrs. Tidball” by Joyce Hau and appeared to depict the two sides of a household — what you see on the surface compared to what happens behind closed doors.
This is the 16th year the competition has taken place and is part of a larger national competition.