My days of street protesting are over, but I was deeply moved by the ground swell of protests across the country and in support of the basic premise: that Black Lives Matter just as much as anyone else’s and as long as they do not, no one’s life matters. So, a painting.
I used Bruegel’s Triumph of Death to begin the structure of the composition. In his painting, the hoards of skeletons come in on the right, holding coffins in front. In my painting, the federal troops come in from the right, holding their shields.
Due to Covid, I used photographs. In order to avoid simply copying the photos, I completed studies – monoprints, charcoal drawings, and pencil sketches – based on the photos. Then the studies were used to create the paintings. Permission from the photographers was obtained as much as possible. Some figures were invented from imagination.
This was the first time I had so many figures in one image. It took a lot of organizing and re-drawing to get the perspectives right.
The entire underpainting is painted in raw umber; then a layer with a limited palette, using black, yellow, ochre, and hansa yellow. Finally, color was applied to capture the surreal colors of the tear gas and reflections at night.
The fires of protest appear in the distance, deliberately echoing the images of hell in Bosch and Bruegel paintings. It was deeply gratifying when a visitor to the studio exclaimed, “It looks like they are in hell.” Indeed, they are.
It became clear as the painting evolved, that there were too many things happening for one painting. Thus, it became a series.