The new mural with a portrait of the former first lady Michelle Obama, written on a building in the very area of Chicago where she lived as a child and is still popular, seemed at first a harmless project.
But the drawing, by Chicago-based artist Chris Devins, has sparked intense debate - and not for conventional political reasons. CNN
Devins finished the picture last Friday, and soon the social networks exploded with criticism. People accused him of copying the student from Rhode Island, Gelila Mesfina, who published an almost identical portrait of Michelle Obama on Instagram in the past year.
The news about Mural was a surprise for Mesfina.
"How can you just steal someone's work ... someone's hard work - and claim it's yours?" She wrote in a post on Saturday Instagram.
"How can you tell the press that you developed it ... it's so sad and so disrespectful in every way ..." added Mesfina. “It's one thing to share or even profit from someone else’s work, but declaring it yours is simply wrong!”
In an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Devins denied any wrongdoing. He said that until last week he didn’t know who Mesfina was, and he only found out about her work after someone from Instagram notified him of this.
“I immediately recognized Miss Mesfina as entitled to her work,” he said.
The mural is located a few blocks from where Michelle Obama grew up.
Devins said he borrowed the idea for the mural from the image he found on Pinterest, here and portrayed the former first lady, as the Egyptian queen. He claims that the origin of that image is unknown to him.
Devins, who calls himself a city planner as well as an artist, is known for painting large street murals and installations around Chicago. He said he chose the location of the mural - across the street from Michelle Obama Elementary School - because "I wanted to make a drawing that would serve as inspiration for young ladies in South Chicago."
Devins launched the page GoFundMe and collected about $ 12 thousand before finalizing the painting.
In recent days, he was careful enough to link to Mesfin on social networks. According to him, he did not speak directly with Mesfina about the dispute, but offered to pay her a license fee and is negotiating with her lawyer.
“For me, this is a time of learning and self-reflection, not justification. Although I did not receive any funds based on Miss Mesfina's work, I was given money based on a socially responsible message about black women, his special statement reads. "She accepted the hand of friendship and cooperation that I extended."