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Elvis Portraitist Tommy Kha on Inspiration, Backlash, and What Occurred on the Memphis Airport

Elvis Portraitist Tommy Kha on Inspiration, Backlash, and What Occurred on the Memphis Airport

Elvis Portraitist Tommy Kha on Inspiration, Backlash, and What Happened at the Memphis Airport

Pitchfork: So, what occurred? When had been you made conscious that your work had been eliminated?

Tommy Kha: I used to be made conscious that there was one thing occurring. I obtained an electronic mail on March 8, and I had a telephone assembly with the UrbanArt Fee on Thursday, March 10. That’s once I was advised they might give me a heads up that they had been going to maneuver ahead to take away the work. At the moment, I used to be made extra conscious that what was taking place that Tuesday type of grew to one thing bigger. I didn’t actually assume a lot of it, as a result of individuals are free to talk what they need, so long as it doesn’t hurt me. However I used to be reassured that they might let me know earlier than they made any determination, and that if I used to be open, to speak additional with a consultant from the airport, at a time once I may select, which was Wednesday the sixteenth.

Somebody took a video and despatched a screengrab someday that weekend that they didn’t see it. I didn’t actually know in the event that they knew what the piece regarded like—my face was on it, however I wasn’t actually positive. One other pal of mine went down Tuesday night, earlier than the Zoom assembly on Wednesday, and confirmed that it was taken down. I used to be not advised. The UrbanArt Fee, so far as I do know, was not advised. So, it was eliminated over per week in the past, with out me being advised beforehand. After I requested about it within the assembly, they confirmed it instantly, and I simply stopped with any negotiations.

That’s such a brief timeline—the piece had solely been up since mid-February, proper?

I believe it went up on the finish of January of this 12 months, and there was extra of an official announcement by mid-February. It wasn’t that lengthy.

With a few of the native reporting I noticed, it sounded as if a few of the destructive suggestions was racially motivated, however there weren’t too many particulars about that. Had been you advised about what the specifics had been, or had been you simply given a broad-strokes rationalization?

I actually do not know. I truly am nonetheless occurring the file that I’m confused by the messaging. This artwork assortment was supposed to point out the huge number of completely different voices from the visible arts group. We should not have loads of areas to start with, in any respect.

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Individuals are free to talk their minds—I’m open to no matter folks wish to say. They will disagree with my artwork, so long as it doesn’t hurt me. Don’t stab me or one thing.

I’m confused by the entire thing and the airport’s lack of transparency. I do know that they’ve been attempting, and I believe everybody’s been attempting. I believe we will all do higher, and that we must always have a dialog about this and the way this may higher profit folks in some methods.

I’d love to listen to a bit extra about your individual relationship with Elvis Presley and Elvis impersonators, what it was like for you rising up so near all of that.

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