Title: Place Yourself Here (2017)
Dimensions: 49½ in x 47½ in x 1½ in
Medium: Oil Paint, Acrylic Paint, Paper, Gold Flakes, and Sharpie
Place Yourself Here was created as a reaction to the controversial painting, Open Casket, an abstract painting of Emmitt Till by Dana Schutz that was on display at Whitney Biennial in NYC. This painting was aimed at anyone who great critiqued and found controversy in her work. In this painting, I want the viewer to be empathetic and think, What if Emmett Till was my son? Or friend? Or partner? Put yourself in the shoes of Emmett's family, his mother, his close friends. Although, I can't even imagine how the people close to him must have felt, I know that his story, his death, will remain relevant until everyone is truly treated equally and until violence against people because of their race, gender, or religion, has stopped.
I took inspiration from Pieta by Michelangelo Buonarroti. I wanted to align Emmett's unfair and crucial death to the crucial death of Christ. The Lord's Prayer is written in the background with some parts being repetitive. "Are you afraid of me?" is the repeated question painted behind Emmett and is coming from Emmett. This is aimed at all the critics of Schutz' painting. Are you afraid of me? Are you afraid of my death? Are you afraid of my story?
I experimented with painting with oils and acrylics. Emmett is the only figure that is painted with oil, everything else is painted with acrylic or drawn on using sharpie. His shirt is made up of newspaper clippings about his death and funeral.