Walter Scott tragedy inspires protest artwork

Story highlights

  • The Walter Scott shooting inspired a local artist to create artwork
  • Phillip Hyman crafted the angel-winged artwork in the middle of the night
  • Protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement have started using it as his symbol

(CNN)A hooded angel with black wings appeared on Tuesday near the spot where Walter Scott was shot and killed by a police officer in North Charleston, South Carolina, on Saturday. Since then, it's been taken up as an icon of the Black Lives Matter movement.

When protesters held the winged figure at a Wednesday morning rally outside North Charleston's City Hall, the artwork was widely photographed.
Creator Phillip Hyman grew up in the neighborhood where Scott, an unarmed black man, was shot in the back several times by a white police officer on Saturday. Hyman now lives in another part of the city and couldn't stop thinking about it. He woke up about 3 a.m. a couple of days after Scott was killed and began searching for materials.
    "Art is really about that moment. I just couldn't take it any longer," he said.
    Hyman dug into the trash and found a piece of wood that was the perfect size. Then he picked up a can of black house paint and started making the reclaimed wood into a work of art.
    The 56-year-old said he crafted the artwork as a way of mourning with the family.
    "That's who all this should really be about, not about the propaganda and making it your own story," said Hyman, who talks quickly and passionately about his subject material. "Shooting him in the back and just the indignity of it all."
    The figure, painted black in mourning for the family, has wings because it's going to heaven, Hyman said. The man depicted in Hyman's piece is dressed in a hooded sweatsuit, though that's not what Scott was wearing when he was killed.
    Hyman said he prefers not to say too much about who the black angel figure is. People can look at the art and make their own interpretations, he said.
    "It's a statement of where we are in America today. It's relevant in Charleston, Ferguson, Florida, anywhere now."
    Artist Phillip Hyman with his artwork
    After Hyman put the piece up on Tuesday near where Scott was killed, he got a call from a local protester with the Black Lives Matter movement, which has staged protests around the country in the wake of high-profile deaths at the hands of police. The group asked for permission to use his artwork in its demonstrations at the North Charleston City Hall.
    Hyman was happy to oblige. Each day, the protesters call Hyman and he either carries the angel-winged artwork to the protest, or the protesters come over to his home to pick it up.
    "It's taken a life of its own, so I'm letting it do what it's supposed to do now," he said.
    Freelance photographer Joel Woodhall spotted the artwork and wondered where it came from. Woodhall, who lives in nearby Charleston, said the artwork made him feel sorrow for a life ended too soon.
    "It was very emotionally moving. It's beautiful," he told CNN.
    This isn't the first time Hyman has used artwork to effect change: He restored a local theater to its former glory. He commemorated Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday by painting a mural in a bad neighborhood that needed light.
    Hyman's wife, Kay, says her husband always paints from the heart.
    "To see this recognized, he just goes into tears because it's very special to him."