When Adrian Brandon starts to color a portrait, he sets a timer. For his rendering of Breonna Taylor, the clock is set to 26 minutes—for George Floyd, 46 minutes, for Tony McDade, 38, and for Aiyana Stanley Jones, just seven. “When the alarm sounds, I am hit with a wave of emotions ranging from anger, to deep sadness, to hopelessness, to feeling lucky that I am still here,” he says.
The Brooklyn-based artist is working on Stolen, a series of partially filled-in depictions of Black people murdered by police. Each portrait remains incomplete as Brandon only colors one minute for each year of the subject’s life before it was cut short. “Aside from being able to give the viewer a visual of the various ages affected by police violence, the timer creates a lot of anxiety for me as the artist,” he says, wondering, “’When is the timer going off?’ ‘Will I be able to finish this eye?’ ‘Damn, I haven’t even gotten to the lips yet.’” In a note to Colossal, Brandon expanded on the project:
Although this anxiety may seem minor in that the consequences for me are very low, it does really have an effect on me. Anxiety is a feeling that black people are far too familiar with, and to experience that feeling while illustrating these portraits allows each piece to feel like a performance. A lot of Black people are forced to live with this anxiety and accept it as part of our every day. But these feelings build up and are exhausting. I shouldn’t have to do a prayer every time I see police pursuing a Black person in the streets. I shouldn’t feel anxious when the police are talking to a person of color. I shouldn’t feel so damn anxious that I remove my hat and jewelry when the cops pull me over. I shouldn’t feel so anxious that I would second guess calling the police if I ever needed to. This series is pulling me in, in ways that art has never done.
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