From the petition to remove the painting of Emmett Till from the 2017 Whitney Biennial.
There's also the tweet that says that the artist — a white woman, Dana Schutz — "should have read Saidiya Hartman before she turned Emmett Till into a bad Francis Bacon painting."
That's quoted here, at the NYT. You can see the painting at both links. The "bad Francis Bacon painting" description is apt (and would be funny if it were not the case that nothing about Emmett Till is funny). Here's what Francis Bacon paintings look like (in case you don't know). And here's a Wikipedia page for Saidya Hartman.
Why did the Whitney include this painting? They're in a position to be awfully choosy, so why pick this?
Schutz is certainly free to make bad paintings in bad taste. She can also use words to speak freely defending herself with dumb banality:
“I don’t know what it is like to be black in America but I do know what it is like to be a mother. Emmett was Mamie Till’s only son. The thought of anything happening to your child is beyond comprehension. Their pain is your pain. My engagement with this image was through empathy with his mother.... Art can be a space for empathy, a vehicle for connection. I don’t believe that people can ever really know what it is like to be someone else (I will never know the fear that black parents may have) but neither are we all completely unknowable.”But why would the Whitney choose this for its vaunted biennial? You could say that the Whitney should want art that challenges us, but this is simply bad. The historical photograph speaks for itself. What did Schutz contribute with her simplified and smeared paint job?
Unless you view the painting as step 1 in a performance art project that includes the protests, it's just bad.