Jan. 13 marked the unveiling of “The Embrace,” a monument in Boston dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. The sculpture by Hank Willis Thomas was inspired by a hug the two shared after Dr. King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. The 20-foot-tall statue sits in the Boston Common, where Dr. King led a civil rights march 50 years prior.
According to The New York Times, Thomas said that “with so many monuments dedicated to war, he [wanted to craft] a sculpture that spreads a message of love and reiterates the Kings’ message of nonviolence and solidarity.” He also shared with the Arch Paper, “The Embrace is a testament to what we can achieve when we come together, “… the sculpture embodies people’s capacity for love, change, and hope for the future.”
Despite its heartwarming origins, the monument has sparked country-wide controversy. Some online sources cite the controversy as stemming from the abstract nature of the statue. The statue only forms their arms, which led people to view it as “disrespectful,” according to CNN, and shared that, although unintended, there were suggestive undertones.
Martin Luther King III, Dr. King’s son, defended the statue, sharing that he did like it and admired that others could witness the love story of his parents. Others were grateful for the message of unity it encapsulated. However, Seneca Scott, Coretta King’s cousin, shared that she disliked the artistic interpretation of the expensive monument.
As with most art, the audience is expected to release varying opinions based upon individual tastes and preferences. The controversy this sculpture evoked attracted a lot of attention to the statue, and may inspire people to think about the messages intended and the history behind “The Embrace.”