Black Lives Matter
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Dallas-based artist Alexis Franklin considers her digital renderings a reinvention of the expected. “I’ve always seen the world through a filter that brings vibrance and excitement to things most people wouldn’t notice, and that’s something that I really want to have come across in my work,” she says of her expressive paintings. Through facial expressions, gestures, and color, each work highlights the nuances of the subjects’ experience, personality, and mood.
A church videographer by day, painting is Franklin’s side-project and one for which she’s received an influx of attention in recent days. She illustrated an affective portrait of Breonna Taylor, who was murdered by three Louisville police officers in March, for the cover of O, The Oprah Magazine. The two-decades-old publication has only ever featured Oprah Winfrey. This isn’t the 24-year-old’s first high-profile cover, though: she also created a powerful rendering of Anita Hill for Time earlier this year.
Franklin often shares time-lapses of her paintings-in-progress—which you can watch below and on YouTube and Instagram—that document every step of her process. “I tend to stay in the present with my work. I don’t really imagine where it’s headed,” she writes to Colossal. “I just let each project be what it is, and then I move to the next one with fresh eyes. And I’m very grateful that each project continuously seems to find me!” (via Kottke)
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Alberta-based artist Simone Saunders hand-tufts bold, colorful portraits with themes of identity and Black history woven throughout. Crafting vibrant patches of fibers that form eyes, lips, and garments, Saunders casts her earnest subjects against austere backgrounds, which sometimes are marked with “Black Lives Matter.”
The textured artworks serve as a site for conversation, prompting questions about race relations and societal injustices. “Textiles engage upon a search for belonging: studying the Black female body, personal identities, and a connection to Black history,” the artist tells Colossal. “I create colorful portraits of Black people who are leaders within their respective disciplines: the arts, music, sports, advocacy. It’s important to carry forward their message and have their legacy move through different channels, like my textiles.”
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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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A Bold Black Lives Matter Statement Transforms a Street Leading to the White House in Washington D.C.
In a show of solidarity, a massive tribute to Black Lives Matter has been painted on the street leading to the White House in Washington, D.C. Completed in permanent street paint, the message features bold, yellow letters that span more than a block of 16th Street and marks a historic moment in the United States after weeks of protests.
Mayor Muriel Bowser commissioned the banner-style piece, which city workers and volunteers began at 3 a.m. Friday morning ahead of weekend demonstrations. The new message is just two blocks north of Lafayette Square, where police charged peaceful protestors and released tear gas and flash-bang shells to clear the crowd for a photo-op for President Trump earlier this week. It sits at the foot of St. John’s Church.
Update: Black Lives Matter D.C. has denounced the public display, saying, “This is performative and a distraction from her active counter organizing to our demands to decrease the police budget and invest in the community. Black Lives Matter means Defund the police.”
Update 2: An earlier version of this article erroneously attributed the mural to a single artist.
— Muriel Bowser #StayHomeDC (@MurielBowser) June 5, 2020
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