Mysterious Artwork a Zombie, Not Racist: Artist

Some said the anonymous piece looks like a racist effigy

Friday, Feb 17, 2012  |  Updated 1:36 PM CDT
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The area has had its share of eye-opening art displayed on the street, but this latest piece is striking a nerve with some people.

The area has had its share of eye-opening art displayed on the street, but this latest piece is striking a nerve with some people.

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Some said a mysterious piece of artwork on Chicago's North Side looks like a racist effigy. The artist, who came forward Friday, said it's a zombie.

Zach Wirsum, 33, who lives in Logan Square, explained the abstract piece near a viaduct on the 300 block of North Ogden Avenue wasn't meant to be offensive. Far from it, in fact.

“It is supposed to be zombies lurking out of the shadows," Wirsum said. "I chose the location because art had been put up there in the past and it stayed up for a long time.”

Robert Sengstacke, former editor of the Chicago Defender, said the piece could be construed as a man hanging from a tree. Though Sengstacke told NBCChicago Thursday he sees the artistic merit in the work, he said the piece also "looks like a lynching."

The area has been used as an impromptu gallery in the past, local artists said. But the spot sits near the only two black-owned businesses in the neighborhood, Sengstacke said. One of those businesses recently held a fundraiser for Rep. Danny Davis.

Wirsum said he feels horrible about the implication.

“That is absolutely not what I intended," Wirsum said. "I regret that I put it in terms that it was received like that. Never had that crossed my mind, I’m horrified ... [and] don’t want to cause anyone offense or anyone to feel attacked in any way.”

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