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Artist Statement

Artist Statement

“When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something.” John Lewis

I have been working with warm glass and glass beads for years as my art medium. During this time of a global pandemic, the death of George Floyd, the Central Park racism moment caught on tape, and the call to “say their names”, I decided to bead a piece in honor of all those who lost their lives at the hands of a broken and shattered criminal justice system. It is a memorial to those killed by police, a tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement, and an acknowledgement of my white privilege.

In the midst of a global pandemic, George Floyd’s death moved me to support the demonstrations in a way where I could express myself and my thoughts around systemic racism and the racial injustices that are rampant in our society. I believe that without the demonstrations, all of the work that had been done to advance racial equality, including the marches during the 60s civil rights movement, would be lost. The fight needs to continue now, more than ever. From the way we police, to the laws that guide our courts, the entire criminal justice system including the penal system and for-profit incarceration, all must be overhauled. We need to dismantle the whole system as it currently exists and promote racial equity.

At the encouragement of my son, a computer programmer, I began exploring and creating a relationship between beads and code. I wanted to show, by using Hex code See Note:, the names and demographics (age, gender, date of fatal encounter, and place of death) of those who were killed at the hands of the police. I want to bring awareness through my art.

Little did I know that the list of names I already had was simply a drop of water in the ocean of names. My online research took me to a website that is a searchable and sortable database of fatal encounters with police in the US dating back to 2000. I started with the year 2020 and organized the names chronologically by date. Each row of beading represents one person.

It was sobering to learn that the list of names I knew about was a very short list – Treyvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, Ed Gardner along with those I knew of as a little girl during the 60’s civil rights movement.

When I started this project, I did not realize how hard it would be on me. The week I beaded Breonna Taylor’s name, I felt completely gutted. I came to realize I had spent 2 months working on this project before getting to her name. There were more than 100 names of Black people killed in this country before her and she was killed on March 13, 2020; just a few short months into 2020.

The piece measures 4.5 inches wide. When I got to Breonna Taylor’s name, it was just shy of a foot long. If the killings continue to happen at the current rate, this piece will be between 5 and 6 feet long by the end of the year. When looking at the database for the last 20 years, I’ve calculated that these pieces could reach a total of 60 feet in length when all of the names of those lives lost are added. there will be a piece for each year starting with the year 2000.

Why do I do this heart wrenching work? Because I believe I can show and honor, through HEX code and beadwork, the stark and startling numbers of Black lives lost at the hands of law enforcement officers. I can use my art to be thought provoking and guttural. It is my fervent desire that people see the work and be shocked and terrified. I want to instill the desire to have difficult conversations, to acknowledge the pain and loss and to work toward change.

Note: Hex code, short for Hexadecimal, is a base 16 numbering system used by computer programmers as a sort of shorthand from binary code. I likely have the details of this explanation incorrect but in Hex Code the 16 units of the code represented with the numbers 0-9 and the letters a-f (translating to 10-16) are paired to represent all the bits of data. simply put each pair of numbers represent characters. I have assigned bead colors to numbers 0-9 and a-f. This bead legend is stitched into each panel allowing the interested user the ability to decode the work. There are online charts and converters that I used in translating the characters to the bead work.

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