Lakeland Artist Takes Painting Down Following Complaints

LAKELAND, Fla. — A Lakeland artist decided to take one of his life-sized artworks hanging on the side of a private building down this week after people on social media decried it as satanic and threatened to vandalize it.

Artist Aaron Corbitt’s work one of 65 tapestries hanging around city Corbitt said his work inspired by Greek mythology People threatened on social media to damage tapestry with paintball guns

Aaron Corbitt’s controversial painting was one of 65 tapestries hanging on private buildings around downtown Lakeland and nearby Dixieland neighborhood since November. The tapestries are part of a project by artist David Collins to promote quality street art in Lakeland and to enhance urban areas.

On March 18, Lakeland Barbeque Company owner Joel Vann posted on Facebook about Corbitt’s artwork.

“They’re taking down Lakelands monument and replacing downtown with art like this. Satan laughing at the spilling of Christ’s blood,” Vann’s post reads.

The post received more than 80 comments, many agreeing with him. (Vann declined to do an interview.)

“It’s kind of distasteful for being outside for family," said Lucas Barley, who was among those who commented on the post. "I think it’s more of a … to go inside of an art museum.”

There were also threats in the comments to use paintball guns and a ski mask to destroy it, and others hoped it would “get graffiti all over it.”

"Nothing to do with Christianity or Satanism"

Corbitt said he was alerted about the threats soon after the post appeared on Facebook and decided to take it down.

“There were threats to vandalize the mural and that scared me," Corbitt told us. "So, I didn’t want to see my work destroyed."

Corbitt said his painting represented the fall of Dionysus, the God of Wine, and the madness that can come from over-indulgence.

”It has nothing to do with Christianity or Satanism,” Corbitt said.

He said he chose to paint it to represent his personal battle with alcoholism.

“I went through hell self-medicating with alcohol and other drugs," he explained. "I felt the only way I could share my experience was through painting."

After hearing about the complaints, Corbitt said he chose the high road and took it down.

“I’m a full-time artist. I got to choose my battles," he said. "I got to choose my battles according to my business."

When Corbitt posted on Facebook that he was taking down the tapestry, his post received more than 400 comments, most of them supportive of his artwork.

“Because it was taken down, it actually brought to light the painting’s purpose and intent more than ever, so I really have to thank all those who brought it down, and that’s just great,” Corbitt said.

Now he plans to make prints of it and sell them. He said he’s also received quite a few offers from people who want to buy it.

For now, the painting will remain in his studio.

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