Artist's painting taken down in Florida after people complained it was 'satanic'

Artist Aaron Corbitt shared on Facebook that his paintings, which depicts his personal struggle with addiction, were taken down after complaints of “Satanism.” (Photo: Facebook)
Artist Aaron Corbitt shared on Facebook that his paintings, which depicts his personal struggle with addiction, were taken down after complaints of “Satanism.” (Photo: Facebook)

A piece of art has been taken down in downtown Lakeland, Florida after some people complained that the imagery depicted in the painting was “satanic.”

Aaron Corbitt, the artist of five paintings that were made for the “Tapestries Lakeland” project, announced on his Facebook that one of his paintings for the project was removed after complaints were made.

The painting in question was the approximately seven-by-nine-foot painting titled “The Fall of Dionysus,” which was one-fifth of Corbitt’s mythological series found on the side of the Miller Building at 401 S. Florida Ave, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.

Each painting depicted a different scene involving Greek gods, such as Hades and Zeus. Dionysus is the god of fertility, ritual madness, theater, and wine. The depiction of Dionysus was symbolic for Corbitt, as the ancient god represented his battle with alcohol addiction.

“It is with a heavy heart that I’ve discovered my tapestry painting ‘the fall of Dionysus’ must be taken down due to complaints that it is ‘satanic.’ I would like to publicly apologize for anyone who is offended by this piece, and also to state that never in my career would I intentionally insult or offend a religion or culture with my artwork,” the artist wrote on Facebook. “My intentions for this painting were strictly personal, dealing only with my abuse with alcohol that led me to a downward spiral that almost cost me everything, my friends, my family, my beautiful dear wife and ultimately my own life.”

Corbitt has been sober for nearly two years, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

One resident, Joel Vann, who initially drew the attention of city officials to the project on social media, responded to the artist’s Facebook post, “The best I could interpret from looking at it, was that It seemed confusing, dark and satanic like to me. In my opinion, you have many great pieces that are suitable for a public space, however this particular piece is too subjective & made for a gallery not the busiest street in Lakeland.” He added, “I know nothing about Greek mythology, and I would assume many people in Lakeland don’t either.”

I was shocked that in this technology-filled age, no one asked me about the work in question. In fact, the group of detractors kept the [Facebook post] private… all I heard were the threats of vandalism,” Corbitt told Yahoo Lifestyle. “It’s very easy to seek truth these days, but it is also so easy to be misguided by fear. Threatening violence to an artist’s work made me sick to my stomach.”

David Nelson Collins, the creator of the Tapestries Lakeland project, commissioned the works. He told the Herald-Tribune, “It wasn’t about anything satanic, but it was creating a controversy that was not the intent of the artist or my goal with the Tapestries project. It saddens me to see how the piece was misconstrued when, in actuality, it’s a story of redemption.”

Collins is in the process of finding a new venue for the artwork, where the public can still view it.

Lakeland Mayor William Mutz provided the following statement to Yahoo Lifestyle, “I respect the decisions made and believe the discussion gained enhanced the artwork and its redemptive personal story for Aaron even further.

“It is a community success whenever we are able to honor as many parties’ views as possible. Not only was Aaron supported in the process for the work and purpose he intended to reveal, but by his willingness to remove it, he also considered the unintended concern by others who did not know the story but saw the image as being that of Christ in the work.

“Community art, such as Lakeland Tapestries, are a delicate balance to preserve — well done!”

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