Titus Kaphar: The Artist Behind TIME’s George Floyd Cover
American artist Titus Kaphar painted the portrait that appears on the June 15, 2020 cover of TIME.
The cover image of Time magazine’s June 15, 2020 issue features a harrowing painting by artist Titus Kaphar. The issue features a special report on the nationwide protests in the U.S. brought on by police actions that led to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Titus Kaphar’s painting, titled Analogous Colors, depicts an African-American mother holding her child, represented by an empty silhouette. Kaphar cut out the canvas where the child was, showing the mother holding the contour of her loss. The iconic red border of TIME highlights the names of 35 Black men and women who were killed as a result of systemic racism, often by police.
The image references George Floyd calling out for his mother during his arrest, as he was pinned to the ground and held down by a Minneapolis police officer for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
To accompany the painting, Kaphar wrote in a piece titled ‘I Cannot Sell You This Painting’:
“This black mother understands the fire. Black mothers understand despair. I can change nothing in this world, but in paint, I can realize her. That brings me solace… not hope, but solace. She walks me through the flames of rage. My black mother rescues me yet again. I need to be sure that they can see her. I want to be certain that her story is told. And so this time, America must hear her voice. This time America must believe her.”
This painting is typical of Kaphar’s style, which often features a combination of classical painting techniques and physical interventions like cutting out or adding materials. Kaphar rips canvases from their frames, cuts them, covers them in tar, rolls them up, or whitewashes them with strokes of paint, in order to symbolize violence and reckon with the nation’s racial past.
“I have given up trying to describe the feeling of knowing that I can not be safe in the country of my birth… How do I explain to my children that the very system set up to protect others could be a threat to our existence? How do I shield them from the…