American Spectacle comments on racism through fine art 

American Spectacle, my latest protest drawing, refers to Blake and Stedman’s etchings while overlaying the terms of American butchery. The piece illustrates the racism of our nation in a color palette of patriotism.

In the shadows of the morning.

American Spectacle is inspired by the cruel appetite the public holds for images of Black murder. Walter Scott, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile are current examples of how we feed racism by sensationalizing the images of Black bodies murdered by the state. 
American Spectacle is approximately 42×35, Sharpie, ink, and acrylic on 140 lb paper. $1800. 

Works by artist K Ryan Henisey are currently on display at LAMAG’s Open Call: Play at Barnsdall Art Part and the Newhall Aquarium. Paintings will show at Ink and Clay 42 at the Kellogg Gallery at Cal Poly Pomona and Viral: 25 Years from Rodney King at the Betti Ono Gallery in Oakland this fall. 

 

It’s okay to be wrong… 

We can be wrong, and often are when it comes to race. But that’s okay as long as we acknowledge our errors and work to correct our actions. 

I was wrong when I painted my award winning piece, #ArtToEndViolence. But I was also incredibly right. 

My error was using the hashtag for ‘all lives’ along side that of black lives, trans lives, and gay lives. Yes, the life of every individual should be measured with equal importance, but the use of all lives diminishes the real danger faced black Americans, especially at the hands of police. 

I’ve been wrong before as well. I used to think that my queer experience was similar to the black experience — I too have been the victim of prejudice. But I also had all the associated privileges of my whiteness — first to be chosen by the teachers, over culture speech patterns, access to higher education, private school, etc. People don’t cross the street when I come their way; instead, they smile as if we’re long time associates. That is something black men don’t experience in the United States.  

The painting went on to win an award that summer at the California State Fair in Sacramento. It struck at the hearts of thousands, illustrating in joyful tones the bow familiar faces of the dead. The blacklivesmatter movement gained momentum. I realized my mistake. No one had to tell me. I could see how I had whitewashed the very movement I was trying to help. 

You see, when I used ‘all lives’ I diminished the special danger that faces black lives. Yes, in a perfect world, equality and value for life should be the same; but we do not live in a perfect world. In our world, people of color and people of difference are at greater risk than others. If all lives did matter, there would not be such disparity. 

ArtToEndViolence has been quite successful. It showed in six locations in California last year and a replica is on a year long display in downtown LA. When I look at the piece now, I’m still proud. But I’m proud because I see how I’ve grown — I can acknowledge my privileges and I can correct them moving forward. It’s in part my testament to privilege; which, just like the lives chronicled, is a true part of my evolution. 

So it’s okay to be wrong. We all are when it come to experiences we don’t know. The trick is accepting your mistake and doing something different the next time. 


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K Ryan Henisey is an award winning artist, writer, and teacher. For more of his paintings, illustrated children’s poetry, musings, and more visit http://kryanhenisey.com

New projects; returning favorites — fine art at work


I’ve been working on a few new projects, one of which is inspired by landscapes. So here are a few of my favorites grime the last year. 


I’m also excited to share Kimani Gray and DeAunta Terrel Farrow at the next Viral: 25 Years from Rodney King show, curated by Daryl Wells. 

Here’s some great pressing the Venice show. 

LA Exhibit Traces 25 Years of Artistic Responses to Police Brutality – The Creatirs Project

he course of the 25 years since Rodney King. For curator and community arts organizer Daryl Elaine Wells, whose brother died under suspicious circumstances in 2013, the work is also deeply personal. “This show was put together in honor of my late brother, Paul, who had been harassed by police throughout his life,” she writes. ” 

The artists protesting 25 years of police brutality – Dazed 

“Like many people who came of age in the nineties, the Rodney King beating was a huge moment where the problem of police violence became undeniable,” Wells explains, of the black LA taxi driver who was filmed being beaten by police in 1991. “But the Rodney King incident, compared to those of today, looks almost quaint… Today, we have images of killings on camera, including a man being mauled to death by police dogs while bystanders cry out in disbelief – and these people haven’t even been charged! There is so much of this kind of evidence that people are starting to become numb to it.”

Viral: 25 Years From Rodney King – The Wonderfully Important New Show At SPARC – Blogtown 

“The show is interactive, as you walk the timeline around the room from 1991 – 2016, with all the visual art complimented by audio listening stations for music and spoken word poetry.”

Five things we learned from artists fighting police brutality – Huck Magazine   

4. Women are the driving force behind Black Lives Matter

When Wells launched Art Responders, she wanted to focus on representing those most affected by police brutality: black males. But the majority of the work she received was by women.

“Women are quite dominant in the BLM movement,” she says. “The tag line was created by women, many of the actions are planned by women and some of the most impassioned testimonies are coming from female family members of victims.

#BlueHolocaust

Orange County Creatives Gallery, In the Neighborhood, Juried Competition, Summer 2015 | Long Beach [AR]t Walk, Summer 2015
Parents and teachers, please use your discretion when discussing the subject of violence with your children. I encourage you open a dialogue on violence, bullying and other subjects. These works of art may help you.

They came black booted in the night, red banners flapping overhead. They stole into homes and into beds, killing, beating and raping. Only the moon and the swastika were witness, all others turned their faces away.

As they burned through the countryside, they split children from their mothers and fathers before callously killing them on the side of the street or hanging them in an empty field. Black booted, they marched into the ghetto, guns blazing as the world faced another way.

It is estimated that 1.5 million children were killed during the Holocaust. Over a million Jewish children were slain, alongside hundreds of thousands of Romani and other ‘undesirables’ such as the physically and mentally handicapped. Those children that were not killed outright were branded with the yellow star, or other symbols of their heritage or class, and forced into labor, tortured, or experimented upon. These murdered children were most often under the age of twelve. This occurred across German occupied Europe between 1939-1945.

Hands up. Don’t shoot.

 

#BlueHolocaustTamirRiceWatermarked

 

When they come, black booted and their sirens blazing, the community shuts its doors and draws its curtains tight. To the neighborhood, emergency sounds mean another black boy may die tonight.

On November 22, 2014, Tamir Rice was shot and killed by two police officers.

Tamir was in a park, with his toy gun. When the call was made to emergency services, Tamir was described as “a male sitting on a swing and pointing a gun at people,” “probably a juvenile.” Tamir was fired upon twice, fatally struck once in the torso. The investigation into Tamir’s death is ongoing but failures of justice and controversy surrounding police-involved deaths of other African American children  has caused unrest in neighborhoods throughout the United States.

Tamir was 12 years old. This occurred in Cleveland, Ohio.

Hands up. Don’t shoot.

 

#BlueHolocaustB2Watermarked

 

Red banded, the soldiers marched through the streets. Their shiny black boots made rhythmic sounds against the weary stones.

The first shrill whistle gave rise to the tumult, breaking the beat with a cacophony of staccato sounds. Whistles and shouts were punctuated by the sudden burst of gunfire.

Some say it was the young mothers who had it worst, their babes stolen, never to see beyond the huddled gray of the ghetto walls. But the children were separated. They were taken to gallows and mass graves where some must have stood innocently while others shivered in knowledge and fear.

Hands up. Don’t shoot.

 

#BlueHolocaustKGWatermarked

 

On March 9, 2013, Kimani Gray was shot and killed by two plainclothes police officers. Kimani, affectionately called Kiki, was struck by seven bullets, three of which entered through his back. He was heard to cry the words, “don’t let me die.”

Controversy surrounding the event led to mini riots in New York neighborhoods and highlighted the growing tension between African American communities and law enforcement in the US.

There is no database for crimes committed by law enforcement against the people. This lack of data echoes Jim Crow, for it is the very function of government to ensure the safety of all its citizens. There is no oversight. The very agencies that may have committed crimes against American communities are solely responsible for the investigation and reporting of such crimes.

No indictment was made after the shooting of Kimani Gray.

He was 16 years old. This occurred in Brooklyn, New York.

Hands up. Don’t shoot.

 

#BlueHolocaustB3Watermarked

 

“Hands up,” they shout as they take the boy away. His little heart races with the echo of his mother’s voice. His name becomes the speeding thump.

They surround him now, tall and black booted. A band of red on each of their arms keeps him shivering still.

There are other children now, crying and praying at the edge of a pit. The boy is with them. Looking down he can see the feet of the crying girl next to him. Her shoe has a hole worn through the side. He can see the pit, empty behind him, lumps of clay covering what lies beneath.

A sudden pop is the last sound he hears.

Hands up. Don’t shoot.

 

#BlueHolocaustDFWatermarked

 

Silver stars on emblazoned shields promise protection, for some. When children such as DeAunta Terrel Farrow are gunned down for carrying a toy gun in their neighborhood (June 22, 2007, West Memphis, Arkansas) the disparity between white privilege and black reality becomes apparent: one mother teaching their child to go to the police, the other teaching him to avoid.

A blue holocaust is slowly devouring America’s children. Where blackness is a frightening assault to some who enforce the law, there will always be an imminent danger to the community. For when those who enforce the law break it, they weaken their relationship with the public. How many black boys lay dead in New World soil? We’ll never know. But we can change what was and build a better world. We can demand accountability. We can demand cameras on officers. We can prevent violence.

Hands up. Don’t shoot.

#BlueHolocaust is the second piece in a series dedicated to raising awareness and ending violence in the United States. This image shows three anonymous boys from the Holocaust in red and three African American boys killed in officer-involved shootings. The boys show are (from the top) Tamir Rice, Kimani Gray, and DeAunta Terrel Farrow. Please share this information across your social networks and help end violence.
#BlueHolocaust was on display at Ink & Clay 41 at the Kellogg University Gallery at Cal Poly Pomona from September 19 – October 29. It has also appeared at Orange County Creatives in Laguna Beach as part of the “In the Neighborhood” juried selection and at Long Beach [ART]Walk, and Augmented Reality Show displaying art digitally.

#BlackLivesMatter

#ArtToEndViolence will be on display at LAAA’s Open Show at Gallery 825 in Los Angeles, December 12-January 8.

A Portrait of Trayvon Martin #ArttoEndViolence

#ArttoEndViolence
#ArttoEndViolence

Trayvon’s portrait reads:

On February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed after buying candy from a convenience store. His killer, George Zimmerman, who followed the boy before fatally shooting him, claimed self defense and was later acquitted for the boy’s death.

Trayvon was 17 years old. This occurred in Sanford, Florida.

 

The complete #ArtToEndViolence set was accepted to the 2015 California State Fair where it won an Award of Excellence in Fine Art.