Buzz Feed, June 2019

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Michael Jackson, R. Kelly, Bill Cosby: Beware Of Boogie Men Disguised As Deity

An art exhibition in Los Angeles’ Chinatown is stirring up online controversy over one artist’s depiction of three of America’s most famous celebrity rapists as false gods. The show, “Goddesses & Gods” opens Saturday, June 22 at 6pm at Coagula Curatorial and Lisa Derrick Fine Arts.

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For “Goddesses & Gods” acclaimed artist Lili Bernard began working on a piece depicting Michael Jackson, R. Kelly, and Bill Cosby as figures on a slot machine wheel.

Lili Bernard / Via Facebook: lilibernard

Cosby survivor Lili Bernard is one of 62 publicly known victims who were drugged and raped by the now-disgraced “America’s dad.” Cosby is currently serving a 3 to 10 year prison sentence in a state prison for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand. Bernard’s new piece Beware of Boogie Men Disguised As Deity will be shown at Coagula Curatorial as part of the two gallery group show “Goddesses & Gods.” Full of symbols and meaning, the piece focuses on the deification of successful men within and outside of their communities, the abuse of power, and the harm these men have done.

Cosby survivor and artist Lili Bernard–who is also a public figure discussing issues around Bill Cosby, rape, the ERA, and the #metoo movement–created the piece which has many layers of meaning.

Lili Bernard / Via Facebook: lilibernard

Bernard who was born in Cuban of mixed African, European and Chinese heritage, explains, “I am sensitive to the fact that White rapists are not met with the same scrutiny and legal consequences as are Black rapists, but that’s a different narrative. This painting is about my personal story, and the notion that these three once highly revered Black male icons have set in backward motion the work that our true Black male heroes, like MLK, Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey with his Liberation Flag, did in elevating the Black image.”

She adds, “Statistics show that less than 2% of rapists ever see a day behind bars, and that lighter skinned rapists are less likely to be convicted and incarcerated than are darker-skinned rapists. Michael Jackson figured out that equation and he won.”

While Bernard’s work in progress drew praise from fellow artists and rape survivors, Michael Jackson fans grew incensed.

Lili Bernard / Via Facebook: lilibernard

Bernard’s work was called brave and beautiful by her friends, followers, fellow artists and sister survivors. However, fans of Jackson took offense at Bernard portraying “The Man in the Mirror” singer as a pedophile and equating him with R. Kelly and Bill Cosby. It started off with fans calling her an “old woman,” and saying she was ignorant and ill-informed.

It devolved quickly, with Jackson fans getting ugly.

Diego Nihoulinah for the privacy-protected version / Via Facebook: lilibernard

Wow. Who knew people who worship the Prince of Pop or any person, alive or dead, could be so unhinged and angry?

Diego Nihoulihan for the privacy-protected version / Via Facebook: lilibernard

For Bill Cosby’s 2018 re-trial on rape charges, Bernard traveled to Boston and created installations on the courthouse steps.

Lili Bernard / Via Facebook: lilibernard

She wrote, “I made two art projects in relation to the Cosby retrial. One is a candlelit installation which I created over the course of 62 days, with each publicly known Cosby survivor represented in one carved candlelight bag. On some evenings, during the retrial, we placed and lit the installation outside of the courthouse as a silent vigil and prayer for the victims in the trial, for all the Cosby survivors and for all sexual assault victims.

The other art project is a wooden painted box filled with wooden painted hearts, decorated in Afro-Cuban religious iconography. I made them with the help of my daughter Zion. Outside of the courthouse, at the end of the trial, I gifted a heart to each person with whom I had connected. I made 62 hearts, one for each of the 62 of us publicly known Cosby survivors.”

One Michael Jackson fan drew a parody of Lili Bernard’s art.

Lili Bernard@LiliBernard

Burning midnight oil to finish this before installation of an exhibit for which it is intended. Took a detour from painting on canvas to begin constructing the frame which will intimate a slot machine. Grateful for the carpentry my dad taught me when I was a little girl.

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I prefer this Art… at least the accused are all still alive and can defend themselves …

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Lili Bernard and Leys Hamish via Twitter / Via Twitter: @LeysHamish

This fan put their talent and effort into pencil work parody of Beware of Boogie Men Disguised As Deity, criticizing filmmaker Ava DuVernay (As They See UsA Wrinkle In Time), the legendary Oprah Winfrey, and the artist.

While Michael Jackson fans simmered, Lili Bernard continued to work on her piece.

Lili Bernard / Via Facebook: lilibernard

Bernard wrote about the next phase of Beware of Boogie Men Disguised As Deity, “It took a while to compose this composite of the 62 of us courageous Cosby survivors who spoke out publicly. There are many more victims of #BillCosby’s whom several of us know personally, who have chosen to not disclose their trauma publicly, because doing so comes with great burden. I’m grateful to my son who helped me with this digital composition. About to manually (with scissors) cut and glue these small images, and put each behind a separate 1-inch glass jewel, onto a new #artwork that will be exhibited in the #GoddessesAndGods group art show that opens this Saturday evening, June 22, at #CoagulaCuratorial and #LisaDerrickFineArts on Chung King Road in the #Chinatown #LosAngeles #Art District. #BewareOfBoogieMenDisguisedAsDeity #BillCosbyRapist”

#BewareofBoogieMenDisguisedAsDeity includes flashing lights and a handle, further enhancing the slot machine feel

Facebook: video.php / Via Facebook: lilibernard

Lili Bernard’s Beware of Boogiemen Disguised As Deity makes its debut in Coagula Curatorial on Saturday. It addresses rape culture, false idols, fame, the justice system, and racism, as well as the struggle for Black freedom and equality. What are your feelings on Bernard’s work and the messages within it?