Thursday, June 28, 2012

Kelly Thomas Art Exhibit

A few weeks ago, I was on Facebook and got a private message for me and my friend Cherie Currie. We were being asked to donate pieces of art for an exhibit / auction in memory of Kelly Thomas.  We weren’t necessarily being asked to make pieces for the show as much as donate something. Having been riveted by Kelly’sstory from the minute I heard it, I agreed, instantly. Cherie soon followed and went into how she would do a piece for the show.  I figured I would need to as well since a whimsical scene featuring a jar of marshmallow topping would seem fairly inappropriate. 
Cherie’s work is just plain awesome. She carves with a chainsaw. Her beautiful mind started whirring and spinning and creating. She wanted to carve a bench, something very positive. She was asking questions about what Kelly liked and clearly was going to do a beautiful piece that represented healing. I loved where she was going. I just couldn’t follow. I looked again at the video of Kelly beivg attacked at the hands of these officers. I posted it on my Facebook page and got a lot of reaction. But many were saying what I would normally say, things to the effect of what a tough job it is for the police. It's impossible to know what you might do in their situation, etc. I didn’t want to do something that might offend other law enforcement officers, I really do tend to look at things from their side, but not in this case.
The image of six, fairly hefty cops on top of Kelly wouldn’t leave me; nor would the question, “How many overweight cops does it take to sit on one skinny homeless guy?” The image of a doughnut immediately came to mind.
As the mother of a son who is neurologically atypical, I could not rise above the situation. I’m in the situation. My son’s paternal uncle is a paranoid Schizzophrenic. I pray daily that my son’s diagnosis will remain only Aspergers syndrome as he moves beyond his teen years and enters the age where Schizophrenia  could  manifest.  As he is now, my son is quite “normal” but tends to behave askew when nervous. I can see him getting into a misunderstanding with law enforcement so easily. A misunderstanding is not something one should die for. I made sure he watched the video and let him know “No matter what is going on, when the police are present, hands up, no arguing! No discussion! No gestures! Silence!” I think the video helped him to understand.
I talked to my friend, Andrea, in New York and told her I couldn’t do anything positive. “What do you want to do?” 
“I want to paint a doughnut in a pool of blood. Like one of these guys sat it down as if to say 'be right back, got to go beat up a homeless guy now'. All in a day’s work.”
“Then do that! You have to do what you feel.” was her response. OK. I did. I also got out the maglight to model for me because one of the officers had used a flashlight to pound Kelly’s face in. I wanted the light on the doughnut to represent justice shining on them. And I wanted that doughnut to be pink and covered in candy sprinkles to play up the clownlike antics of the cops and further insult their manhood. I wanted to do it in photorealism. This is a style I'm trying to veer away from because it's really constipated of me but I wanted  to use it here; I wanted the blood to look as real as possible.
Because this was real. This IS real.
Static, quiet, no movement.  
A life has been stilled. 
I started it digitally, no sketch on paper. I was under a bit of a time crunch and thought it would be a more direct approach. I don't recommend it. It looked sterile like this for way too long like a construction paper collage. I hated looking at it so I wasn't enjoying working on it.
I had to flesh it out ASAP. Once the blood seemed real, I felt better.
Almost there...
Here is the final, including the gallery wrap that goes around the stretcher bars.

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