Portraits link the past and the present 


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.

—-

Parts of #BlueHolocaust are currently on display at Betti Ono Gallery as part of Viral: RK25, recalling 25 years of police brutality. The piece is six 20×20 watercolor and ink portraits in black frames. $7,200. Ten percent of the artists profits will be donated to support social justice in the US. 

K Ryan Henisey is a protest artist living in West Hollywood, California. His art often confronts violence faved by marginalized communities. 

As I wake to the news…

As I wake to the news of another black man killed by police, I find myself enraged. 

In the past two days, two black men — Alton B. Sterling and Philando Castile — have been shot and killed by police. Both men were unarmed but in possession of weapons. Both men were apparently killed because officers feared these untouched weapons. 

What is doubly enraging, as if murder by the state isn’t enough justifiable cause for anger, is that these murders only matter because they were caught on film. 

A society where blackness is taught to be an object of aggression, crime, and villainy is a society that is complicit in the resulting violence. As long as white people fear black, there will be allowance for violence. 

Yes, officers are ultimately to blame for their actions; but we as a society have enabled them to act in such ways. Inflammatory language, oppressive practices, mass incarceration, limited access to education, health care, and jobs — these are all symptoms of a centuries old hatred Americans have for each other. 

We are to blame for these deaths. And that is why I am angry. 


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#BlueHolocaust is a reaction to police brutality. The six piece watercolor and ink paintings depict three young blacks killed by police and three boys saved from the Holocaust. The full narrative can be read here: #BlueHolocaust

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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. 

Pulse, Orlando: There are no safe spaces

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Pulse, Orlando

There are no safe spaces.

Boys at my high school jumped the gay kid, Michael, after he came out. They teased him relentlessly. They hit him. They tripped him. They drove him from school.
I was the next in line when it came to queer hatred. They called me faggot and queer and gay boy. Once, someone threw an open container of milk at me as I walked through the full cafeteria. I was soaked, my jacket ruined. The Principal told me that I had brought it on myself.
‘What do you want me to do?’ the good, Mormon community member scowled at me from across his desk. More than half my life has has passed since then but I still remember.
There are no safe spaces.
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A frame of the departed unites the disparate elements of the work.
As a grown man, the hate can be constant. My one haven is home — West Hollywood, a gay neighborhood carved from the heart of Los Angeles. In the seven years I’ve lived there, I’ve only been derisively called a faggot on two occasions, both by teenagers.
But before I moved to an urban setting, I taught in California Public Schools and lived in a large commuter community in suburban LA County. At least once a week I was called faggot, queer, pervert, or in some other way made to feel uncomfortable in my queer skin. This was always in public spaces; parking lots, the mall, the grocery store, coffee shops, restaurants.
It was so common that I felt normalized to the jeers. I barely heard them. I’d wave them off. At the time, I felt that I couldn’t affect the behavior of strangers; so I ignored them.
Work was worse. Children regularly tossed homophobic epithets, both in my direction and broadly to each other on campus. Each year at least one parent would pull their child from our district because they believed people like me shouldn’t be allowed to teach.
Teachers and administrators were useless in their support. Once, when I filed a formal complaint, the teachers on the task force became angry with me for making a big deal out of ‘a little name-calling’ (as if they let a child call them faggot without consequences).
There are no safe spaces.
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The city glows with change.
My friends and I made places for ourselves at the local gay bar, the book store, and my apartment. We were a cohort of camaraderie  that helped each other exist in the world that didn’t want us.
Even together, there was no guarantee of security. At coffee shops, the common assault was from good Christians calling us sinners, shielding their children, or worse, saying they’d pray for us. At the book store, it wasn’t uncommon to be called a faggot or dyke if we lingered too long before the single shelf of queer books (my entire literary access to queer publications).
I can recall two shootings at the only gay bar in town, unabashedly named The Back Door, though I’m certain there were more. One happened during the day, a bit of drive by vandalism. The other happened when I was there – a couple of shots our direction from the parking lot. No one was hurt. I don’t think the police believed/wanted to believe that it happened.
There are no safe spaces.
When we stayed in Fairbanks, Alaska, my boyfriend and I slept in separate beds. There were rooms with larger beds available but for our safety he chose a room with twins.

Rarely have I ever expressed affection to another man in public. Derision has even follow in private settings: I had once been told that my gentle touch, on the shoulder or thigh of another man, made others in the room uncomfortable — the same touch straight couples so easily take for granted.
I’ve refused affection in public more often then I’ve accepted. I like to think that’s a matter of taste and propriety; but if I leave out fear in this equation, I’d be lying.
There are no safe spaces.
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A glowing heart releases forty-nine monarch butterflies into the Orlando sky.
When I woke that Sunday, a mind full of the upcoming PRIDE parade and a new project, I was appalled, but not surprised, to see that a gunman had killed twenty at a gay night club in Orlando.
Through the morning, I followed the story, weeping with the queer community as we learned that twenty was in reality forty-nine with more than fifty others injured. I stood beside my local community as we marched for PRIDE, signs silently echoing the loss in Orlando.
And even those moments were wrought with danger: a man headed to the event had been arrested hours before, his car laden with an arsenal and explosives: the worst members of Christianity represented their community with signs and bullhorns proclaiming that “God hates Fags.”
There are no safe spaces.
Indeed, since the massacre at Pulse, Orlando, politicians, pastors, and everyday Americans have proclaimed that the victims deserved their deaths for simply being queer (or queer adjacent).
These examples are a small taste of constant messaging of hate and rejection I’ve encountered in my experience as a privileged, educated, queer, white man in The United States. Is it any wonder that the Orlando shooter was motivated by a mix of self-hate, homophobia, and religious confusion? It isn’t to me for that is a world I’ve always known.
For queer people, there are no safe spaces.
Messages of rejection, hate, anger, violence, cruelty, and religion are so deeply intertwined in culture and belief that simply choosing to be queer is a radical act.
Before we know we are queer, we are told that we are hated. Before we have sexual desires, we are taught they are wrong. Before we understand our own bodies we are limited to the gender binary.
There is a long and rich history of queer humanity — from Alexander, who briefly united to world; to Richard, Lionhearted, who inspired it; to Alan Turing, who, though he managed to save the world, was ultimately persecuted and destroyed for being queer.
I had to hunt for my heroes and role models because they were hidden from me. History books didn’t mention them, or worse, erased their queerness.
There are no safe spaces.
To change what is, we must be willing to change the way we are. That starts with what we say to children and how we act in front of them. If we want to stop young men from killing others we must embody compassion for all.
In the absence of compassion, hate is allowed to grow.
There are no safe spaces. So let’s make them.
—–
#ArttoEndViolence
#ArtToEndViolence: Winner, Award of Excellence in Fine Art, Watercolors, California State Fair, 2015
K Ryan Henisey is a creative professional living in Los Angeles. His #ArtToEndViolence works have appeared in locations throughout Southern California, the titular pieces winning an Award of Excellence at the California State Fair, 2015.
Pulse is painted ink with minimal acrylic and sharpie pen on 140 lb paper, 42×42 inches.
Forty-nine monarch butterflies are shown emerged from a glowing heart. The artist narrative above is scrawled along a neon, Orlando skyline. The names of those killed during the massacre are written in red, blue, and black.
K Ryan Henisey’s other works can be seen at the upcoming Open Show, Play, at The LAMAG at Barnsdall and later this fall in Oakland for a second installment of Viral: 25 Years from Rodney King. #ArtToEndViolence is on display at the residence gallery at Wilshire / Vermont through 2016 and The Slumbering Sea and other select works are on loan to the Newhall Aquarium.
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Tamir Rice, a child victim of the Blue Holocaust

  
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. 

   
The above was excerpted from the full statement on #BlueHolocaust. The original watercolor and ink paintings have shown in various locations throughout Southern California. 

  

Art to End Violence displays in Los Angeles

#ArtToEndViolence will be on display at gallery 825 in Los Angles from December 12 to Jan 8, 2016.

Winner, Award of Excellence in Fine Art, Watercolors, California State Fair, 2015
Winner, Award of Excellence in Fine Art, Watercolors, California State Fair, 2015

I was 18 years old, freshly starting college when Matthew Shepard was lured, beaten, tortured and left to die in a field outside of Laramie, Wyoming.

I was still a year away from coming out but I knew by then that I was gay. So did everyone else (they just had the good sense to let me develop at my own pace).

My mother and father were especially protective during this time. I remember my mom not wanting me (an 18 year old boy!) to be out after 10pm. For a time they both checked in more than normal.

I, of course, was terrified. I was afraid of people finding out. I was horrified that something like this could happen. But I was also blessed. My parents became protective. My friends became supportive. And I hadn’t done anything. A cute, skinny boy had been killed a thousand miles away and I was cocooned as a teenager. Jadin Bell wasn’t.

Fast forward to the early hours of January 19, 2013; I’m 32, nearing the end of my time as a teacher. Later that year a parent will threaten me and shout homophobic slurs in front of 300 first, second, and third graders. But that morning, Jadin Bell, a 15 year old boy, makes the decision to take his own life. He had been relentlessly bullied, online and to his person, by peers and adults with little intervention.

 This happened in my country; the home of the free and the land of the brave.

I taught in public schools for a decade; during that time I had a few hundred children. They’re all mine. All teachers, even the reformed, feel very possessive of even their most difficult students. I adored mine. And they would come to school each morning and tell me stories of their lives. These stories were different from stories I knew.

They would tell me of their parents being arrested. The police would come in the night, guns drawn and take mom or dad away. They would tell me of being pulled over and having to wait on the side of the road while their cars were searched. Their backpacks were spilled open too.

And on February 26, 2012 (I’m 31 and I teach first grade), a grown man follows a 17 year old boy and kills him in ‘self defense.’ Trayvon Martin had just bought candy from a local store. He looks like a boy I know.

My friends started telling stories now and I discovered that I don’t know a single person of dark skin who has not had a gun pulled on them (many by police and in urban centers). These are my friends and family. These are people from all walks of life, from high school drop outs to Ivy League grads, AND every single one of them has had a gun drawn and pointed in their direction.

I know guns. I grew up with guns. I’ve had guns in my possession while in the presence of police. I have NEVER had a gun drawn on me. On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri (I’m nearly 34, an author and artist). Now, acquaintances start telling stories – one man was walking down a major street when three police cars suddenly surround him and the officers jump out, weapons drawn. He ‘looked’ like the suspect. Or of times they’d been pulled over, handcuffed at gun point and searched, all the while being called ‘boy.’ These examples occurred in Los Angeles.

And other stories start to appear on social media. Suddenly I see people I know, people from all walks of life – high school drop outs to Ivy League grads – share about ‘losing rights’ and ‘protecting religious freedom’ and ‘standing their ground.’ And I’m made afraid all over again. I feel the same sense of horror I felt when Matthew Shepard was discovered. The faces in these paintings – these stories – could be my students or my friends; they could easily be me.

It’s like anew every time another sweet boy is pushed to suicide, such as Tyler Clementi who was 18 years old when he jumped from the George Washington Bridge on September 22, 2010. I had just celebrated my 30th birthday; he had been publicly outed and shamed on campus and across social media.

It’s like anew when the body of a young woman is found. Transgender women, such as Gwen Araujo, who was beaten to death by four men on October 3, 2002, have 1 in 12 rate of violent mortality in the United States (I was 22 at the time and the hardest thing I had to do was break up with my boyfriend). Ty Underwood, the second trans woman to be murdered this year in the US, was found shot to death on January 26, 2015. Blake Brockington, an 18 year old transgender teen killed himself this week. I don’t want to hear that we’ve ‘come a long way since Angie Zapata‘ (who was beaten and bludgeoned to death on July 15, 2008).

Until violent deaths stop, we will not have come far enough.

Suicide rates among gay and transgender teens are unacceptable. Police violence against minorities (and the lack of accurate reporting and statistics) is reprehensible. Violence motivated by hate is unconscionable.

Though these stories terrify, though they stain the picket fences surrounding our star-spangled fields, they also transform and offer the opportunity for renewal.

These paintings are about awareness. As an artist and a teacher it is my duty to inform and transform. These paintings and their stories are my way of highlighting wrongdoing. They are my way of subverting what is so that we can create a world in which no teenager feels the need to take their life because of difference, where people can walk the streets of their neighborhoods without fear of gun violence REGARDLESS of the color of their skin, and where no one’s life is believed to be ‘less than human.’

These are stories of our own loss and shame. I challenge you to face them. I challenge you to share your own stories. We cannot fix the world by staying quiet.

Because these voices have been silenced, we must be compelled to speak.

#arttoendviolence

I am at the center of the piece, treated in the same way as the silenced. The thoughts above are (with some editing) the same as those written around my head. They are certainly written on my mind.
I am at the center of the piece, treated in the same way as the silenced. The thoughts above are (with some editing) the same as those written around my head. They are certainly written on my mind.
Black lives matter.
Trans lives matter.
Gay lives matter.
Click on a portrait to read more:

Michael's portrait reads: On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, an on duty police officer. Dispute regarding the circumstances of the shooting resulted in civil unrest across the nation and revealed systemic racism among local police, calling into question other cases of police violence against minorities. Michael Brown was 18 years old. This occurred in Ferguson, Missouri.

Jadin's portrait reads: On January 19, 2013, Jadin Bell hanged himself in the playground of an elementary school. He dies on February 3, 2013 after being taken off life support. Jadin's death was widely reported upon, placing national attention on the personal and internet bullying that drove him to suicide. Jadin was 15 years old. This occurred in La Gande, Oregon. Angie's portrait reads: On July 15, 2008, Angie Zapata was beaten and bludgeoned to death after Allen Andrade, her murderer, discovered she was transgender. He had referred to Angie as an 'it' in his arrest affidavit. Andrade was found guilty of first degree murder and hate crimes - the first time a trans murder received this distinction. Angie was 18 years old. This occurred in Greeley, Colorado. #ArttoEndViolenceMSWatermarked#ArttoEndViolenceGAWatermaked

#ArttoEndViolence

#ArttoEndViolenceTUWatermaked