Columbus exhibits “They That Matter”, a tribute to lost black lives


As you peruse Larry Winston Collins’ new exhibit – portraits of black Americans killed on American streets and in their homes – you might be struck by one thought: there have been so many.

“They That Matter,” one of two series by the artist on display at the Shot Tower Gallery at the Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center, features nearly 40 portraits of Americans killed by police or victims of the civil rights movement. They range from 14-year-old Emmett Till, who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955, to the four girls murdered in the Birmingham church bombing in 1963, and to victims of the 21st century, including Trayvon Martin. , Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, George Floyd and Andre Hill. , who was killed at Columbus.

What’s troubling, but not surprising, is the fact that many of the names might not be familiar, or perhaps simply forgotten as a result of the shooting that followed.

Collins, 66, who is black, was inspired to create the bulk of the exhibit when he discovered a 2015 cover story in Time Magazine that focused on the murder of an unarmed black man, Walter Lamar Scott, who was arrested in North Charleston, South Carolina. , for a defective brake light. He was shot eight times and died. The article went on to document cases of other black Americans who were killed and carried the cover title “Black Lives Matter”.

Creating the portraits, said Collins, “was one of the most difficult exhibits I have had to work on.”

"breonna taylor"

“It was physically a lot of work, but mentally it was exhausting. Dealing with the subject and then looking at the faces is really exhausting.

Some of the portraits are in acrylic painted in black and white and others are in color, painted on a wooden board covered with plaster and giving them a three-dimensional quality.

Each face is surrounded by an ornate frame. For civil rights martyrs such as the victims of the Birmingham bombing, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and Medgar Evers, Collins made the frames with found objects such as soup and soda cans and chunks old frames. Frames for more contemporary portraits are elaborate constructions in gold and silver, often with geometric features and significant material additions.

The frame surrounding Trayvon Martin’s portrait features jagged bangs made from Skittles candy wrappers and Arizona fruit cocktail boxes, two things Martin was wearing when he died.

The towering frames, Collins said, are meant to enhance portraits, honor victims and grab the attention of viewers.

"Emmett Till"

The exhibition has previously been shown at a gallery in Rochester, New York, and at the University of Miami at Oxford, where Collins recently retired as an art professor.

He has stated that he will not continue to create works for the series, although he has said, unfortunately, that he does not expect the shoots to be completed.

Beyond paying tribute to the victims, Collins said, “I just want people to know how many of these cases have taken place in the past few years. I want people to take this seriously and start thinking about what they can do.

In addition to being a printmaker, painter and multimedia artist, Collins is a photographer and the Shot Tower Gallery includes “Captured Moments”, a selection of his photographs. These are both in black and white and in color and on a variety of subjects, ranging from scenes in Columbus and Cincinnati, where he lives, and scenes from his travels in Europe and Africa.

And Collins is also a musician. In fact, he played percussion with the Mark Hampton Jazz Experience at the opening reception for his own exhibition.

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In one look

Larry Winston Collins: “They That Matter” and “Captured Moments” continue through November 5 at the Shot Tower Gallery, Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center, 546 Jack Gibbs Blvd. For more information, call Teresa Weidenbusch, 614-365-6681.


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