Carly Swenson, Visual Artist

bloodwork: two hundred individuals (artist interpretation)

Two hundred Individuals • 22in x 30in • Mixed media (Menstrual blood/India ink/Graphite) • Carly Swenson • 2020

This piece was really difficult piece to finish. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the portraiture that was challenging (although, I’ve never considered portraiture an artistic strength of mine). The hard part was the research. As an empath, researching the names of people whose lives were needlessly taken from them takes a lot of emotional energy.

This portrait of George Floyd includes the names of 200 other men, women, and children of color who have been killed. Most were unarmed and most died as a result of interacting with law enforcement. Researching incidents with police highlighted certain patterns (that sadly, as a cis-white passingly heterosexual woman were revelatory to me, while simultaneously being the unsurprising and heartbreaking reality for people of color). Trends I noticed include the following:

People being killed as the result of no-knock warrants and botched drug raids (a number of which taking place at incorrect locations or based on inaccurate intel). These deaths include children, women and elderly people.

People being shot in the back as they try to flee. (I know some people will use the logic of “well, they shouldn’t have committed a crime.” I fully acknowledge that some of the individuals listed in this piece were killed while caught or suspected of minor crimes. However, that doesn’t make killing them acceptable. For example, if a white teen boy stole a car, he’d unlikely get shot in the back by police fleeing the seen. If a couple blonde college girls stole stuff from Walmart, it’s unfathomable they’d get shot in the parking lot.) As a white person, it’s important to keep in mind that, for people of color, interactions with police are frequently deadly and risky. So, it’s understandable that even innocent people might flee a scene or run from police because plenty of other innocent people have been killed for less. Avoiding police isn’t an indicator of guilt, it’s likely a fight or flight reaction and common knowledge indicates “fight” will get them killed.)

More recent cases offer body/dash cam footage, security videos, live streams, or cell phone recordings that question or contradict the original statements given by law enforcement. This is evidence that there is indeed a pattern of inappropriate and deadly behavior performed by law enforcement (without any expected impunity) against people of color.

Black trans women or gender non-conforming people of color are killed at an alarmingly high rate.

Routine traffic stops turning deadly isn’t uncommon for people of color. (As a white woman I’ve been pulled over twice in my life. I’m 36, I’ve been driving since I was 16. In 20 years, so an average of once every ten years–and both times I never feared for my life. Fellow white people need to realize this experience isn’t the norm for people of color. Just because the narratives don’t match your lived experience, doesn’t make them untrue.)

Many people being killed in the midst of a mental breakdown. These were people who were not in a healthy state of mind, due to stress, drug use, brain chemistry, PTSD, or life circumstances. Understandably, police are ill-equipped to handle a mental health crisis. (This is why calling police on someone acting strangely can be deadly for that person. It’s also why people would like some police funding directed toward appropriate training to better assist these people or redirected entirely to another agency to help support the mental health needs.)


This is a portrait of George Floyd, because he’s become symbolic. It’s his image, but each name is just as important as his. Each name was a human.
Keep that in mind.
Every name has a story.
Each life lost was someone’s child.
Each person was loved.
And each name included in this work is just a beginning of a huge heartbreaking list of humans who didn’t deserve to lose their lives. It’s the tip of a huge figurative iceberg that many white people are either unaware of, or intentionally ignore.

I don’t know what else to say. Black lives matter. Black trans lives matter.

One was a 93 year old woman, one was an 8 year old girl, one woman was sleeping, one man had heart condition while killed in police custody, one was shot while already cuffed in the backseat of a patrol car. These are elderly people, college students, working professionals, trans women, and pregnant women. Each name is an individual who existed in this world until they didn’t. They were students, mothers, fathers, and working professionals. Some were killed during petty crimes a white person would never have been killed for. Some were killed because they “sort of looked suspicious or like another suspect”.

Each name was a human being. Each name was a life. Black lives matter.


Two hundred Individuals (Detail image) • 22in x 30in • Mixed media (Menstrual blood/India ink/Graphite) • Carly Swenson • 2020
Two hundred Individuals (Detail image) • 22in x 30in • Mixed media (Menstrual blood/India ink/Graphite) • Carly Swenson • 2020

Breonna Taylor
Ahmaud Arbery
Tamir Rice
Philando Castile
Tony McDade
Aiyana Stanley-Jones
Botham Jean
Michael Brown
Natasha McKenna
Oscar Grant
Maurice Gordon
Ariane McCree
Trayvon Martin
David McAtee
Walter Scott
Monika Diamond
Muhlaysia Booker
India Kager
Chanda White-Pickney
Jonathan Sanders
Tanisha Anderson
Ritchie Harbison
Maya Shawatza Hall
Ashlynn Lisby
Tydi Dansbury
Kevin Higgenbotham
Shelly Frey
Felix Kumi
Jazzaline Ware
Bee Love Slater
Bubba Walker
Deontre Dorsey
Matthew Ajibade
Marlon Lewis
Brandon Jones
Delois Epps
Antonio Valenzuela
Bernard Moore
Pebbles Ladime Doe
Jerame Reid
Kendra James
Kevin Garrett
Latandra Ellington
Anthony Hill
Terry Lee Chatman
Brandon Glenn
Renisha McBride
Keith Childress
Emily Marie Delafield
Brooklyn Lindsey
Dr. Jameela Yasmeen Arshad
Rekia Boyd
Eleanor Bumpurs
Barbara Lassere
Atatiana Jefferson
Ralkina Jones
Dalvin Hollins
Michelle Washington
Kathryn Johnston
Samuel Dubose
Joyce Curnell
Ollie Brooks
Nuwnah Laroche
Antwon Rose Jr.
Jamee Johnson
Riah Milton
Kyam Livingston
Miguel Espinal
Ahjah Dixon
Christopher Kimble
Dee Dee Pierson
Kobe Dimock-Heisler
Terrence Sterling
Bailey Reeves
Keanna Mattel
Jamal Rollins
Guanda Denise Turner
Keith McLeod
Tarika Wilson
Michael Lee Marshall
Tracy Single
Itali Marlowe
Frank Shephard III
Shereese Francis
Sonji Taylor
Manuel Ellis
Victoria Carmen White
Michael Sabbie
Tiara Thomas
Kiki Fantroy
Junior Prosper
Shelly Scott-Amos
William Chapman
Kisha Michael
Michael Dean
Malaika Brooks
Kayla Moore
Yvette Smith
Tyisha Miller
Bettie Jones
Raynetta Turner
Samuel Harrell
Jamagio Jamar Berryman
Redel Jones
Tyree Crawford
Vionique Valnord
Nina Pop
Chanel Scurlock
Cheryl Blount-Burton
Jacqueline Culp
Denali Berries Stuckey
Alberta Spruill
Shulena Weldon
Jason Champion,
Brianna Hill
Dana Martin
Frankie Perkins
Laquisha Turner
Chynal Lindsey
Zoe Spears
Kajuan Raye
Sheneque Proctor
Layleen Polanco
Terence Crutcher
Marquintan Sandlin
William Green
Dominick Wise
Ariel Levy
Sean Reed
Beverly Kirk
Nathaniel Pickett
Alton Sterling
Bryan Overstreet
Zamiel Crawford
Paris Cameron
Alfred Olango
Ashanti Carmon
Jason Harrison
Regina Denise Brown
Christian Taylor
Phillip White
Italia Marie Kelly
Emantic Bradford
Jamar Clark
Miles Hall
Paul O’Neal
Eric Garner
Sandra Bland
Albert Joseph Davis
Jamel Floyd
Freddie Gray
Salvado Ellswood
Stephon Clark
Lavall Hall
Rayshard Brooks
Dominique Fells
Troy Hodge
Marsha P Johnson
Pearlie Golden
Alteria Woods
Artago Damon Howard
Darrius Stewart
Ralph Bell
Latanya Haggerty
O’Shae Terry
Danette Daniels
Gabriella Nevarez
Dion Johnson
Akai Gurley
Malissa Williams
Thomas Allen
Kevin Hicks
Paterson Brown Jr
Amadou Diallo
Pamela Turner
Demarcus Semer
Darrien Hunt
Frank Smart
Ronell Foster
Jemel Roberson
Shantel Davis
Duanna Johnson
Nizah Morris
Malice Green
Alexia Christian
Michael Stewart
Terrill Thomas
Miriam Carey
Keeven Robinson
Jordan Edwards
Anthony Hill
Laquan McDonald
Patrick Harmon
Alonzo Smith
Eric Reason
Tycel Nelson
Chavis Carter
Rumain Brisbon
Darius Tarver
Elijah McClain
George Floyd

3 Replies to “bloodwork: two hundred individuals (artist interpretation)”

  1. Carly, this is a stunning post. I love this art work. Your “blood” series has been exceptional. This piece achieves a new level of art as visionary/commentary on our world. Congratulations.

    The research, the conceptualization, the prose make your witness to the injustices and call to action to redress these injustices inescapable.

    Thank you for this piece, for all I’ve seen you do over the last decade, for being you and for sharing your journey.

    Bob Airhart

    Like

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