Who is that supposed to be? I get that question a lot when people see my drawings. If the image is of someone famous, or familiar, that question hurts just a little, since you wouldn’t need to ask if I had done a better job.
But if the drawing isn’t someone you would recognize, what do you really see?
What comes to mind? Do we just take it at face value (pun intended) or do we make guesses and assumptions? Do we ask questions? Maybe none of that. Maybe we just look and think that is all there is to see. Nothing more.
There is always more.
As an artist I get to choose what I include, leave out, or even change. How much do you trust me? Does it matter?
This is a drawing of Catherine Burks.
In 1961 she got on a Greyhound bus headed from Tennessee to Alabama. Police stopped the bus because racially integrated bus travel was illegal. They escorted the passengers back to the Tennessee state line, dropping them off on the rural roadside in the middle of night. Burks told the chief, Bull Connor, “We will see you back in Birmingham by high noon”.
She was indeed back in Birmingham the next day and this is a drawing of her mug shot.
This is the face of a freshly arrested college student who I guess is thinking, “told ya.”
By this point she had seen violence and police beatings and been personally threatened by the leader of it all.
And this face was her face.
Sometimes, even today, some of us think we know what is going on simply because we watch. We see some things, we feel we are paying attention, and no one contradicts what we think we see.
But there is always more to the story.
We normally only get that after we ask questions and then listen.
Happy Black History Month.