A wall in Allapattah has our attention. It features rabbits as artwork. When some people look at it, they smile. Others say it’s outrageous. Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser has this interesting controversy.
This is the painting. Artistic to some people, atrocious to others.
Eileen Silio, appalled by painting: “I was appalled. I thought, ‘Wow.’”
Eileen lives in Allapattah, where she is part of a group of homeowners determined to clean up the Miami suburb.
Eileen Silio: “This community is a community of very hard-working families.”
Among the neighbors’ accomplishments is working with Miami to revitalize Melrose Park.
Eileen Silio: “There were no water fountains. There was no walking path. They bought a brand new playground for the kids.”
And then Eileen was walking with her two boys past this building…
Eileen Silio: “The bad bunnies.”
Two rabbits doing what rabbits do…
Eileen Silio: “Having sex, smoking some type of cigar, cigarette, and I think that that’s not something that belongs in the entrance of a neighborhood, and for me to have to drive by there with my kids in the car.”
The work is done by Jules Muck under the name Muck Rock, a well-known artist who has painted across the country, paid by property owners to draw famous people, cartoons.
She likes rabbits and to decorate schools.
In Wynwood, you can see Muck’s painting of the “Miami Vice” actors and beautiful artwork showing a woman and a rabbit.
Eileen Silio: “Am I crazy?”
Then, here on 22nd Avenue, the owner of the building hired Muck to recreate procreating rabbits, which gave birth to an irritated neighborhood.
Eileen Silio: “Everyone was, ‘Yeah, we’re not happy with that. Why is that there? That’s filthy. It’s a gross picture.’”
Eileen and her neighbors contacted the city.
Eileen Silio: “They were like, ‘You know, we have to be very careful about how we handle this because we don’t want to upset the art community.’”
And so the two bunnies smoking something are still at it.
Eileen Silio: “My argument is today it’s two bunnies, but tomorrow it can be something racially offensive. It can be something showing more explicit sexual acts.”
But does the law consider this artistic or obscene, Howard?
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: “Under the law, it’s not a close call. It’s artistic and protected by the First Amendment. That means you have the right to express yourself and display artwork. To make it illegal it would have to pornographic. In other words, something like two humans fornicating. Then, the government can try to step in.”
The City of Miami agrees they can’t force the property owner to remove the rabbits. A spokesperson wrote, “The art does not necessarily meet the definition of adult entertainment. It does not display anatomical areas, nor specified sexual activities.”
We got in touch with the artist, Jules Muck. She said she was going to be in Miami in the fall and would have no problem changing the artwork.
We spoke to the property owner, who said this is a one of a kind piece of art, and he was not taking it down.
Eileen Silio: “It made me feel awful.”
And you can paint Eileen blue knowing this artwork will not change.
Eileen Silio: “Paint something else. Paint one rabbit or paint two, but don’t have them engaged in a sexual act.”
It was a Supreme Court justice back in the ’60s who said, “I can’t describe pornography, but I know it when I see it,” but obscene to one person is beautiful art to another, and that’s why the law surrounding art is so difficult to describe or enforce.
Hopping around trying to solve a problem? Can’t decide whether to use a carrot or a stick? Don’t get painted into a corner. Let us draw up a solution for you.