Graphite on Stonehenge Paper. Sheet size 22x30 inches
Summer 2017 and ongoing
I started making these drawings in the summer of 2017. Using a full 20x30 inch sheet of Stonehenge paper, I render portraits of people (mostly men at this point) who have killed black people. Because I source these images from the internet, they are usually images that come from courts, arrests, surveillance, and social media profiles. I try to gather as many images as I can, with the goal to draw all of them.
The usual impulse is to memorialize a victim. I think it is right and good to do this. That is not my goal in this work. These victims of these killers are already ennobled and it goes past my talents to sanctify Tamir Rice, Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Timothy Caughman or any of the others any more than they already are. They do not need me to make them worthy of memory-I cannot make them more worthy of attention than they already are.
What I can do is direct the viewer to the source of this kind of violence against black people. The source is these men and the inchoate, and unnameable whiteness that creates and supports them. In these drawings I make that whiteness visible and constitutive-it is the condition that makes these people and their crimes inevitable.
The power inherent in who gets imaged and who gets to do the imaging of at the crux of how portraits get made. To image killers, to name them as such, and to locate them in the midst of the active whiteness of their circumstance is the way for me, a black artist, to reframe the way we talk about these people. In this work, they are not monsters, troubled, disgruntled, heart-sick, or mentally ill. They are killers adrift in the lie of whiteness.
Photos by Stewart Clements