When the video of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck stopped circulating on social media, Corinne Basabe decided to remind people of the “image that made the world rise.” brought “.
So she founded the George Floyd Justice Billboard Committee. Now Floyd’s death is pictured across highways in Atlanta, Los Angeles and Washington, DC
The billboards feature an oil painting by New York artist Donald Perlis and a quote from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr .: “Injustice everywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
For Basabe, 58, the painting gives people a lasting image.
“Because of the way information works these days, things only last a minute and we have to give a blow to what happened to George Floyd,” she said.
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When Perlis, who is white, first saw a video of Floyd’s death on Memorial Day 2020, he said the image stuck with him so strongly that he started drawing replicas of it.
Three weeks later, he finished a full canvas painting – something that typically takes six months to a year, he said.
Perlis, 79, said he was thinking of classic religious paintings depicting martyrdom when he painted “FLOYD”.
“The way he was sacrificed for being black was punished for his race. It has a much bigger meaning than the murder of a man,” Perlis told USA TODAY.
“A man like George Floyd is killed and it affects a lot of people too,” he said.
Perlis has been painting works of art that deal with racist injustice since the 1980s. Some of his earlier work features Michael Griffith, the Central Park Five, and Eleanor Bumpurs, a black woman with a history of mental illness, who was shot dead in the Bronx in 1984 when police came to evict her from her home.
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The original billboard featuring Perlis’ “FLOYD” was displayed in New York’s Times Square in late October and the committee received immediate praise.
“I think people got it,” said Perlis.
That month, committee member Nan Quick decided the group needed to put a billboard in Washington, DC – and she paid them herself with $ 16,000. She hopes “FLOYD” will help ease ideological tension by allowing people to view Floyd’s situation in peace and even in silence.
“Looking at a picture forces us to slow down a little and actually think about what we are seeing,” said Quick, 68, a writer and designer. “Words carelessly thrown at those we disagree with can be flammable. We have to take our time; It can’t be a jerky response. “
The billboard rose on January 25, less than two miles from the US Capitol Building, and will remain for a month. Billboards in Atlanta and Los Angeles will also be open for a month.
The committee plans to pursue billboards internationally as well, with Basabe highlighting Paris and London as opportunities.
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The committee had planned and even paid for a site in Minneapolis after reaching out to advertising firms Clear Channel Outdoor and Outfront Media last year.
But the Minneapolis deals were scraped off by the advertising companies.
Perlis was told that the contracts were terminated because of violence on the billboard.
Perlis’ painting of three officers on Floyd is just a snapshot of a larger story, the artist said. One would have to know that the Minneapolis police killed Floyd for violence to be definitively deduced from his painting, argued Perlis.
“There’s nothing violent about the painting itself,” he said. “The violence is in the minds of the people who look at the painting.”
Clear Channel Outdoor and Outfront Media did not respond to requests for comment from the US TODAY.
Follow Claire Thornton on Twitter @claire_thornto.