Using Time as a Medium to Honor Lost Black Lives

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“I look forward [to] the day that I no longer have to create these pieces.”

It’s not a sentiment you hear from artists very often. But when it comes to the emotional intensity that comes with Adrian Brandon’s “Stolen” series—“dedicated to the many Black people that were robbed of their lives at the hands of the police”—an end to the chain of violence is the only outcome.

George Floyd; 46 years old / 46 minutes of color

If you’ve been active on Instagram, especially since the murder of George Floyd, there’s a good chance you’ve seen artwork from this Brooklyn-based artist. These 37 portraits and counting are all unfinished—intentionally. Brandon uses time as a medium, restricting how long each portrait gets colored in based on the number of years lived by the subject; one year of life equals one minute of color. The results are somber, and striking.

Tamir Rice; 12 years old / 12 minutes of color
Breonna Taylor; 26 years old / 26 minutes of color

“The viewer’s left with these unfinished portraits, which represent these unfinished stories, these unfinished lives that were never able to be fully lived out,” Brandon told NBCLX. “These pieces aren’t meant to be these beautiful, you know, celebratory pieces, unfortunately. I’m kind of focusing on the sadness and the heartbreaking component of this because for some reason we’re still having to say that Black lives matter …”

Brandon first introduced the series on Instagram in February of 2019. By November, the pieces were on public display for his first solo art show.

Botham Jean; 26 years old / 26 minutes of color
Jordan Edwards; 15 years old / 15 minutes of color

“Stolen” isn’t Brandon’s only focus. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s been capturing tiny moments of his neighbors’ lives that he’s glimpsed via fire escapes and windows. “Solid lighting and windows are crazy valuable in NY,” he writes. “Over the years, I’ve witnessed such a range of things from my own window. From marching band practices, to hella dramatic breakups, to Double-Dutch competitions.”

While “Stolen” captures the struggle and fear that so many people in our world still live with, “Brooklyn Windows” provides a reminder to be kind to your neighbor. Vibrant colors, bold lines, icons of hope can still be found here, but we have a long way to go.