Controversial artist Daniel Edwards is picking a fight with one of pop culture’s major icons — Jay-Z — for his alleged Occupy Wall Street opportunism
Edwards is infamous for provocative sculptures of famous figures. For instance, he portrayed a nude Britney Spears giving birth on all fours and also created a topless bust of Michelle Obama.
Edwards’ latest sculpture (pictured on the right), recently promoted on his Facebook page, is called “Mogul (Jay-Z Occupies Occupy Wall Street)”. It shows a bare chested Jay-Z wearing multiple chains and a large dollar sign hanging from it.
Stacked on top of his head are three penny-pinching, money hungry, cartoon characters Duck Tales’ Scrooge McDuck, Mr. Burns from The Simpsons and Richie Rich; all of which have dollar signs in their eyes. Many think the sculpture is a commentary on the rapper’s considerable wealth.
Jay-Z’ has drawn criticism from activists since he began selling “Occupy All Streets” t-shirts last week. Occupy supporters were outraged by what they viewed as the rapper’s attempt to capitalize on the movement, while offering none of the proceeds to the cause.
According to News One, Edwards created the statue in the shape of a totem pole because “maybe Jay-Z is striving to be in the 1 percent” and that he thinks the businessman has “made himself a face of [the] Wall Street that Occupiers are protesting against.”
In an interview with theGrio, Edwards said that he was not trying to criticize the rapper. “I am a big Jay-Z fan. I’m not angry with him. I was just having fun with him.”
Edwards says that he was working on an Occupy sculpture well before Jay-Z came on the scene, but once the rapper tried to identify with the movement, he figured he’d found the perfect subject. Although Edwards is a supporter of the movement he said his intent was to use the “cartoon characters to provide more imagery and not anymore boring rhetoric.” He claims he was actually trying to bring some much-needed humor to the anti-Wall Street group.
“It’s perceived different from the way I envisioned it. Maybe the Mr. Burns character is too sinister.” Edwards said that if he were to do it over again he thinks he would adjust that component. “It’s not playful enough.”
“I really don’t strive to be controversial,” Edward said. “And what I create isn’t as controversial compared to what people accept from TV and video games. People love celebrities and what I try to do is infuse more substance.”
Edwards doesn’t mind being labeled controversial but he balks at charges of racism. He says that, “Anytime I do a piece that involves African-American content, I’m considered a racist. I struggle with being viewed that way.” Edwards said the alternative is to just avoid race altogether but that would be stifling him artistically.
“If I had my choice, I would probably spend more time doing African-American work.”
Edwards said that the only sources that seem to be covering this story are black media outlets and that he feels, “In this arena, I’m limited.”
Whether it’s about race or just pure controversy, the bottom-line is that this sculpture has gotten the attention of many — except for the subject himself. Edwards said, “I know [Jay-Z’s] aware of it because I have a sense of it but I don’t imagine him speaking out.”
Edwards says he just wishes, “that people understood that I was being playful and I’m not criticizing him so much.”