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These portraits of police brutality victims are incomplete for a powerful reason

Brooklyn-based artist Adrian Brandon resurrects his powerful series ‘Stolen’ that shows how much more life victims of police brutality had to live.

These portraits of police brutality victims are incomplete for a powerful reason
[Images: Adrian Brandon]

When Black lives are taken by acts of police brutality, there’s always a push on social media to say the victims’ names to acknowledge they were more than a faceless statistic.

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And in many ways, it’s just as important to say their ages as well.

Breonna Taylor was only 26 years old when she was gunned down in her home by police. Aiyana Stanley-Jones was just seven when the same thing happened in 2010. George Floyd and Eric Garner: 46 and 43, respectively, when they were choked to death by police.

These were all lives cut short by unnecessary police force—and Brooklyn-based artist Adrian Brandon has found a powerful way to illustrate the years that were taken from them.

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With deep sadness, I'm revisiting my Stolen series. George Floyd, 46 years old – 46 minutes of color. How badly he deserves a full portrait — a full life. I'm fucking done. Like many others, I'm tired of yelling the same story. Im outraged that these cops hold power over us and that people like Amy Cooper dangle that over our heads. How are we supposed to be okay if every week we see someone that looks like us being killed by the ones "trained" to protect us… These officers not only stole a life, but they are draining us all with each life they steal. Reminding us that our lives ain't worth nothin in their eyes. That they can murder us on camera and go home to their families that night. Witnessing these stolen lives during COVID adds another layer of helplessness. This series is painful to revisit, but I'm trying to use the pain to fight against them, rather than have them break me–thats what they have always tried to do. This is how I want to be a part of the conversation. RIP George Floyd. We won't ever forget your name. #stolenseriesbyab #georgefloyd #sayhisname #blacklivesmatter #justiceforfloyd #minneapolis #justiceforbigfloyd #creativityxgigi2

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In his series Stolen, Brandon sets a timer for himself as he starts coloring in blank portraits of Black victims. Each year they lived represents one minute. And once the timer goes off, Brandon is left with a partially filled in portrait that underscores how much more life was left to live.

“As a person of color, I know that my future can be stolen from me if I’m driving with a broken taillight, or playing my music too loud, or reaching for my phone at the wrong time,” Brandon said in an Instagram post introducing his series in 2019. “So for each of these portraits I played with the harsh relationship between time and death. I want the viewer to see how much empty space is left in these lives, stories that will never be told, space that can never be filled. This emptiness represents holes in their families and our community, who will be forever stuck with the question, ‘who were they becoming?'”

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Check out more of Brandon’s work on his website and Instagram.

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Rayshard Brooks. 27 years old, 27 minutes of color. Stolen on June 12th, 2020 in Atlanta, GA. Below is from a post I wrote Feb, 18th, 2019 about the death of Willie Bo. His death occured in the midst of me working on Stolen last year, just like how Rayshard Brooks' name was added to this list following his death on Friday. It's a note on how painful it is for us to be adding names to the list during this time. I need non-Black people to understand that this has been happening our whole lives, and for generations before that. This series was started a year ago and we were hurting then just like we are hurting now. We don't have the time to grieve because the list is growing too fast. But we had to continue on, continue showing up for work with a smile on, had to keep seeing our IG timeline filled with people flaunting their freedom and oblivion. It just happens that now more people are waking up and starting to listen but we been telling, screaming, kneeling, crying… This isn't a trend it's our every day, it's our history: Feb. 18th, 2019 on Stolen Series: "What kills me about this project is that it feels like it is never ending. It pains me looking at my list of stories that I have yet to illustrate, and to see a new life being stolen in the middle of this project really shook me. Willie Bo was 20 years old. My list of stolen lives only contains people from the last decade. I have enough stories that I could share one a day well into March. As I’m gathering images for each portrait, I always come across photos of the police who killed them. They rarely receive an appropriate sentence. They are still here. Many are still “policing.” What’s fucked up in all of this is that these cops would have a full portrait." #Stolenseriesbyab #rayshardbrooks #justiceforrayshardbrooks #justiceforrayshard #blm #blacklivesmatter #breonnataylor #justiceforbre #georgefloyd #justiceforfloyd #ahmaudarbery #justiceforahmaud #stopkillingus ##handsupdontshoot #nojusticenopeace ##sayhisname #sayhername #saytheirnames

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Aiyana Stanley-Jones, 7 years old – 7 minutes of color. She was sleeping on her grandmother's couch when police conducted a home raid. After using a flash grenade, Officer Weekley fired one shot killing Aiyana. He claimed there was a struggle with the grandmother which caused his gun to fire. Weekley walked free of both charges including manslaughter and reckless use of firearm. Her family is still dealing with wrongful death lawsuits today, nine years after they lost Aiyana. . . Today is the last day of the series. Aiyana is the youngest life stolen in this series. I still have a dozen other stories that I haven't shared with you. I want to thank y'all for sharing your thoughts on this series and for using my art as a way to spark conversation within your community. Throughout the month I've been flooded with messages expressing how this project moved you. That's what it's all about. My next goal is to have this up for people to see in person, so stay tuned. Message me if you have any leads on spaces/people that might be interested in hosting this series for a bit. If you think it's powerful on Instagram, imagine seeing these all lined up in person. . . #stolenseriesbyab #blackhistorymonth #blackhistory #blacklivesmatter #blackart #blackartist #supportblackart #suppostblackartists #brooklynart #bkart #newyork #art #instaart #artlife #dopeblackart #peoplescreative #onwednesdayswepaint #artist #drawing #illustration #portrait #markers #copic #detroit

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About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America," where he was the social media producer.

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