Are you sure that it’s him? (Yes, I am certain.)
Pen Ink on paper
9 x 12 inches (each)
The more I think about the tragedy and confusion surrounding the murder of Trayvon Martin, I come back to this completely misinterpreted (at most, ambiguous) drawing I completed last year. It posited an image I captured of my brother in 5 different forms.
The original idea was to play with the accuracy of memory and how dangerously often mistaken identity is. The subject’s identity is unbeknownst to the viewer. His stance is relaxed but as each stage in the sequence progresses, one realizes that there isn’t a single “frame” which reveals the subject’s image entirely. Fragments and little bits of information are combined, but he is never quiet whole.
His body is cut off at the torso to add to the objectivity or this subject in the process of examination. I wanted to use my youngest brother, aged 17, to illustrate how he can so easily become nothing but a singular entity, devoid of any human connection or understanding, a silhouette, an object, at the end of a polyptych narrative sequence that comes with preconceived notions of black young men and their motives.
In short, once all the supplementary information is slowly removed (and the lack of information becomes glaringly obvious) the big reveal is that what we are seeing is not a person anymore, it’s a concept.
And to top it all off, the title. It’s eerie how on point it was, and to be honest, I had no idea what I wanted to do with it at the time. Now, looking back on it, I realize that this is something I need to seriously explore in detail.
Finally, a note on the deliberate tonal and light shifts in each panel: I wanted to show how the spectrum of tonal variety became more and more subdued as one progressed through the narrative. You arrive at the fifth panel to an almost completely darkened body, shaded harshly in rendering and almost monolithic. His neck with the slightest twinkle of light—an obvious tug at the horrors of lynching. However, I found that such ambiguities and illusions got lost in the reading of the piece.
Bolding is mine. This is so complex…I had an idea of what Toyin was getting at when I first saw this piece but it’s immensely helpful to read her breakdown of her own work and to get a better idea of the subtleties and nuances I missed previously.