On George Floyd
Dear viewer. I am white, I am a man, I am 65, I am outraged. Better late than never? Better never, but these days, these last four years, all these years of my adult life, as our social fabric disentangled, and we left more and more behind, as one of seven children is hungry weekly in these United States, as 65 are dead by another’s hand in Minneapolis already this year, what’s to like? If everyone is better together, why are so many of us getting worse, and what can those of us born lucky, say or do in the face of it?
We shouldn’t think that art can fix much. And in the end, there are plenty of ways to end:
All whom the flood did, and fire shall, o’erthrow,
All whom war, dearth, age, agues, tyrannies,
Despair, law, chance, hath slain…
Yet for some chance is big, choice small, dwindles to nothing. Nothing is fair. Floyd’s end as unfair as water is wet. Simple as that.
But shouldn’t painters be celebrating life and possibilities? Of course, there are plenty of reasons NOT to paint George Floyd.
- Why rock the boat. Go paint a kitten.
- I’m not Black. How dare I appropriate?
- The immensity of it all is such that one never succeeds.
- So forth and so on.
I concede them all. I painted this painting with fear and anguish, just as I have painted others to display horrors man inflicts on man. We must bear witness. How can we fix anything if we overlook what’s wrong? We forget, we turn away, it’s uncomfortable! So be uncomfortable for a while – look at George Floyd.
And at the glories and the cruelties of the world. The beauty of laughter. The horror of crime, hatred, apathy. This last, the worst; the worst is dullness, indifference. I paint to wake up from it. So here’s the most wicked death of George Floyd. From that, if we pay attention, if we learn, if we act, a better life would beckon.