A father-and-son artist team based in California claims that a nonprofit organization improperly appropriated their bust of George Floyd, a version of which was unveiled recently in the East Village’s Union Square Park.
The bust of George Floyd sits beside depictions of Breonna Taylor and John Lewis where they see hundreds of visitors each day in the public exhibit ‘SeeInjustice.’ Produced by Confront Art, the organization cites the creator as Chris Carnabuci.
But Daniel Edwards and his son Rodman Edwards — who are based in San Francisco — say they originally constructed the design digitally during the 2020 protests following Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. That’s when they made the work available for 3D printing via the website Sketchfab in honor of the Floyd family, where it remains today.
“My son and I, about a year and half ago, saw the video footage of George Floyd and just like the rest of the world we were just very disturbed. As artists you have a voice and so we were actively trying to figure out if there was something we can do to help express anger about this,” Daniel Edwards told amNewYork Metro.
According to Edwards, Carnabuci contacted him regarding transforming the work into a large-scale bust, which both the father and son say they agreed to, provided statue remained available for free public consumption and with proper credit attributed. The initial idea was to create something that could easily replace confederate statues across America that many have called to be torn down in a quick and meaningful way.
“We decided to sculpt a bust that could be downloaded for free so that people can create their own memorials,” Daniel Edwards said.
Believing that the work itself was most important, they say they were nonetheless “disturbed” by the lack of acknowledgement from both Confront Art and Carnabuci, save for a QR code on the statue’s base. The Edwards, however, chose to remain silent as long as the message was conveyed. Yet, now they say they are coming forward due to fears that someone will eventually profit off their work.
“My goal is to make sure this guy does not sell it or profit from it because that has been in his plan the whole time and we repeatedly said no,” Rodman Edwards said., “It is that kind of stuff that really disturbs me and that is not why an artist should be doing this kind of work.”
Confront Art co-founder Lindsay Eshelman rebuked these accusations, stating that the organization has offered both Edwards funds for their work, and credited the artists during the exhibit’s time in Brooklyn. However, they altered it to a QR code on the statue’s transfer to Union Square.
“We have reached out to them multiple times during this process. Initially when we just started with the Floyd statues, over six months ago, and offered them monetary compensation and they said ‘No, just credit us,’” Eshelman said. “Due to the aesthetic restrictions within Union Square—where it has be very polished—we completely moved all the credits to a QR code, which they are justly credited.”
While Rodman says the credit is not important to him, his father believes a young artist should be acknowledged.
“It took literally three weeks of 16 hour days to do the John Lewis bust,” Daniel Edwards explained, adding, “The credit helps. It validates what you do. It is important.”
Eshelman adds that their agreement was solely for credit and not to include them in the planning process or any event unveilings, but it is something she says Confront Art is open to including them for future events.
“We saw this work as not just art but as a partnership with ‘We are Floyd.’ So, when we are speaking in public we don’t speak necessarily about the artist even. We speak mostly about Terence Floyd and his relation to the statue,” Eshelman said.
Daniel Edwards wished he was included in the planning process, stating that he would have incorporated a bust of Eric Garner in the display since it took place in New York. The pair also claims they were asked to remove the designs from the free website so they could be sold, which enraged them as they believe the deaths of the individuals on which the statues are based should not be used for monetary gain.
Eshelman responded by adding that donations made will go directly to ‘We are Floyd,’ and the work is to bring attention to the charitable needs, but also shares that this project was self-financed so there are also material costs that they will recoup in the process.
amNewYork Metro reached out to We are Floyd for comment, and is awaiting a response.