Interview on “Bling Bling Kid and Safety Stalker Slayer” painting

IMG_1563Bling Bling Kid and Safety Stalker Slayer

Why did you paint on the Trayvon Martin case?

This case hit pretty close to home.  When I was a youth, I had friends on both sides of a brutal rape and murder of a 13 year old girl.  It was a shock to the system that someone you knew could be involved in such a horrible crime and the victim be a classmate of my brother’s at the same time.  The police detectives harassed me for confession letters and forced me to search my house without a warrant by saying they would subpoena me in the case at court to testify against my friend.  My mom had already found the letters and threw them out although he didn’t confess to anything in those letters. Years later it turned out that Chicago police had staged several crime scenes to be able to pin an unsolved case on someone to be able to serve “justice”, which makes you wonder was he really guilty?  In this case, it was black on black crime, which the media quickly forgot after catching the perpetrators.  The really sad part of the case was the mother moved out of the hood in Chicago to the suburbs to raise her daughter outside of that environment.  I suppose by selling drugs in her home she exposed her daughter to some shady elements as well in the process despite being out of the hood.

projectsChicago Projects

Why do you think the jury found George Zimmerman not guilty?

Unfortunately, the way the “stand your ground” law was written in Florida, you can basically follow someone around in your neighborhood and have a stand off right in the middle of the street with little repercussion.  I think the intention of the law was to cut down on drive by shootings of gang bangers, but they have definitely gone too far in the definition of self-defense and in particular this case, since it obviously allows stalking a suspect as allowable.  The interesting point that social media sleuths pointed out was the case of Marissa Alexander, a mother who gave a warning shot to an abusive husband in the name of “stand your ground” yet was sent to prison 20 years. It definitely looks to be like Jim Crow never left the Deep South if you look at just these two cases.  Of course, you need to look at many cases to get the full picture of overall justice being applied in those courts.

fla justice

Why was there such an outcry?

Well, the country has various race history in the Deep South that has been white washed or forgotten over time yet takes a long time to transition out of.  With the election of Obama, some people living on well integrated coasts of the country thought we were living in a post-racial America.  This case showed drastically how powerless Obama was in the face of the existing Florida justice system, which is how it is structured, since he was elected to the Executive not Judicial system. Other elements on the case were his young age and type casting as a thug vigilante despite having no weapon vs. a stalking adult.

hope2jimcrow

What elements do you have of the case in your painting?

skittles

Of course, you have to include the Skittles in Trayvon Martin’s pockets, which really captures the fact that this was a youth killed without a weapon.  In the painting, I have 5 rows of 10 columns of circles representing the candy in this kid’s pocket.  The 10 and 5 also represent the bail set for George Zimmerman of $150,000.  Inside the circles I have various photos from the plot leading up to this tragedy.

I included elements representing the “Stand your ground” law and aspirations of George Zimmerman, studying to be a police officer.  He was influenced by the idea of being a neighborhood watch guardian that citizens put together to reduce communal crime. In the case of Sanford, there had been numrerous burglaries in the neighborhood, reported to be by black youth.  So when Trayvon’s family stayed the summer in Sanford, they had no idea the dangerous tempest brewing in Sanford for their son to walk through.

take a bite outneighborhood watch

What were some of the artistic interpretations of the case?

Most of the artists focused on either Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman.  Below are some of the art pieces made from the case besides mine.  The most disturbing trend was George Zimmerman capitalizing on the case by making a flag and court paintings copied direct from photos, altering them in photoshop and then selling them on eBay for $100,000.

trayvon art 5 trayvon art1 trayvon art3 trayvon art4 trayvon art6 zimmerman art

What do you think the selling price of $100,000 says about art collectors?

I would say some collectors look for notoriety and a story in a painting.  This had both as the guy killed a youth and got away with the crime.  I do find it disturbing that eBay and Zimmerman would make money off a terrible event.

slave ship

Are there other paintings of tragedy that are worth so much?  

Turner painted the famous story of a slave ship captain that dumped 133 slaves overboard to be able to make more on the insurance payment for “lost cargo”.  Turner was criticizing the slave trade in this painting, but considering the market value over $32 million, it makes you wonder a bit on the values of the art market itself.

 

Are any works available? 

Check my shop at www.shawnshawn.co

 

Do you have a monthly newsletter?

Yes. I send about every 4-6 weeks at http://shawnshawn.co/Site/Contact

Review of Django Unchained

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What did you think of the movie?

The movie just grabs you right from the start with blowing away a slave trader at close range with a shot gun and goes from there. It definitely has a unique flavor of the old spaghetti western, but from a mythical black hero perspective set in historical restrictions.

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What do you think of Spike Lee’s refusal to see the movie?

He definitely is entitled to not see a movie as it brings a mythical quality to the serious subject of US slavery. I think though you really need to see a movie to honestly judge it or it is prejudicial by definition. Its almost as if Spike wants to live in his own reality and think no white man could possibly do slavery well in a mythical film. Spike Lee’s own words were, “American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. It Was A Holocaust. My Ancestors Are Slaves. Stolen From Africa. I Will Honor Them.”

How was slavery handled here? Is this a disrespect to slavery?

I really enjoyed how it was depicted as a quite serious, dark angle to the reality of 230 years of slavery. If you never have seen Roots, this film really captures all the types of punishment, degradation and dehumanization of slavery. Tarantino covers a range from prostitution, wrestling slaves to the death like a cock fight, beaten to death, eaten to death and even castration. At the same time it shows the illusion of the slave owners seeing themselves as righteous. I would say that likely the slave owners would in general not have been quite as evil as the character played by Leonardo Dicaprio.

Did the script use the word “nigger” too much?

This is a total assault on your ears with maybe 100 + uses of the word. That being said, historically in that time frame it is likely accurate in its common use as it was a verbal technique at dehumanization to maintain slaves in the system. I think Tarantino could have spared us a bit of the language and just use the historical signs as he did for example with servant clothes. It does do a frontal assault to the fact that this word is white-washed out of any other spaghetti western with minimal display of slavery like it did not exist. Also, another point to make is that you hear that word still today used by racist, so the heavy use gets to the historical impact of the word on US culture even today. I just heard it several times by some racist kid on Call of Duty II, so it is relevant.

Is this the best Tarantino movie?

Well, it definitely is in the top 3 with Pulp Fiction and Inglorious Bastards. I think it is a great choice to redefine the spaghetti western in the true brutality of slavery which has been side-stepped in every other Western to-date.

Was there too much violence in the movie?

There definitely has a lot of classic Tarantino slaughter scenes, which directly contrast other high tension and suspense scenes. One of the best scenes is where Jamey Fox’s character rides with Reginald Hudlin as bounty hunters on the way to Candiland ranch. Jamie has to pretend to ignore other slaves plight as he is pretending to be a black slaver, which actually existed in the 1860s. There is a lot of tension with a spectacularly brutal scene of a slave’s death at a pack of dogs.

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What are the surprising roles in the film?

Yes, I loved the portrayal of Samuel L. Jackson as the head house slave. Wow! This just brings a new edge to how slavery was used by house slaves to dehumanize their fellow slaves, so they could enjoy the 2nd class citizenship in the big house.

Another amazing role is by Miriam Glover as Betina, the top prostitute, who cooly watches a fellow slave be fought to death while sipping a cocktail. These roles really get to the clutch of how slavery worked on several levels within society and trade-offs people made to make it up the ladder, so to say as a slave.

Another great angle that Tarantino exposes is the formation of the KKK in the movie. Here we see them struggle to harass the main characters in their first lynch mob. It is a fearful, then hilarious scene. It hits a major nerve.

Do you think Tarantino went too far with the castration scene?

It really encapsulates the key point in the plot, where the whites are avenging the slaughter of their fellow slave owner family. It also is key to see again the great scene with Samuel L. Jackson facing down Django again as the double-faced head house slave that ran the slave mansion system for the master.

 

Do you have a monthly newsletter?

Yes. I send about every 4-6 weeks at http://shawnshawn.co/Site/Contact