Two years ago, when rapper and activist Nipsey Hussle was fatally shot in a parking lot in South Los Angeles in 2019, artist Jeresneyka Rose created a portrait in his memory. She was especially proud of the meticulously hand-drawn design, which features Hussle in profile view encircled by lyrics from his song “Victory Lap,” and felt that it was one of the best portraits she had made.
Apparently, so did Walmart — the multibillion-dollar corporation stole her work and sold it in its stores for $14.99.
Rose told the Southeast Express that she started receiving messages on Instagram congratulating her on her “collaboration” with Walmart along with images of the artwork printed on 12-by-8-inch canvases.
“They were like, ‘I got my Art by Rizzo at Walmart.’ I responded, ‘Thank you so much for tagging me and your support, but they stole my work. I didn’t collaborate with them,’” Rose said.
Rose published her tribute to the musician on social media with the option for a free download and attempted to protect her work by adding five watermarks featuring her Instagram handle, @artbyrizzo. Walmart removed all but one of them.
“They edited the picture and removed my signature and changed the background to yellow, but my watermark was still in the hair,” Rose said. “I guess they couldn’t get that off, and that’s what saved me.”
A barcode sticker on the side of the canvas includes a link to Art Blvd, a store in Oviedo, Florida that appears to sell printed canvas art. (Art Blvd has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment.)
Rose, who describes herself as a “full-time artist,” makes much of her income from selling her work, usually online or at community events in Colorado Springs, her hometown.
The news that Walmart was making a profit from sales of her design struck Rose as particularly egregious as she faced financial challenges over the last year due to the coronavirus crisis, which has disproportionately affected people of color.
“With the art market and the pandemic and just life, my income has been pretty inconsistent. I’ve done things like DoorDash or Uber or whatever other little side-hustles I can get to make money to survive,” she told the Express.
“In a perfect world, if [Walmart] would have licensed my work to sell, I’d be getting residuals or if they had paid me a lump sum I’d be getting money where I could survive.”
Walmart has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment.