The Black man sitting on the paint can is Arnold Butler. He painted the works that are mounted on the wall behind him. He is from Atlanta, Georgia, USA. If you visit his website, you’ll see that art saved his life. He says he paints his “prayers for the Universe to see and hear them.” This post is an invitation for you to take in Butler’s prayers as we collectively mourn the cruel loss of George Floyd.
Each of the paintings in the picture above was a creation in progress. Today I marveled at how every single black stroke is supported by another black stroke. And later I smiled seeing that in each of his paintings there is a prayerful representation of support. If you look deeply you will see what I see.
Press play below and see what I see. I see self-support when I look to the left and see one’s head supported by one’s own knee. I see foundational support at top-left, where the body is balanced on a single foot. Look to the bottom-right and you’ll see that as legs intertwine each individual supports the other.
At the top-right you’ll see each brother leans with the confidence of being supported by the other. And I beg you to look to the uppermost-right corner to see three sisters so close that each one’s head supports the other’s. Can you see Butler’s prayers? Now look to the center, just above Butler. There you’ll see what we don’t see enough. It is not the snapped neck of strange fruit hung from a rope on a tree. It is not a neck crushed under a uniformed knee.
At center, I see the power of prayer. Press play below and you’ll see what I see. Suspended and hoisted up at the body’s most vulnerable point, I see a strong but gentle hand cradling the neck and supporting the full weight of another. I see trust and I see security. I see Arnold Butler’s prayer for life support.
Arnold Butler is (a) moTHa+fUcken aRT-iSt. That is his hashtag. Support art. Support Black art. Support uplift. Support Black life. It is important that we do so now, more than ever.
As we make sense of the most recent race-based violence capturing both our attention and emotions, let us keep the faith. Mourn, but don’t mire. Put faith in creation because intentional creation is the antidote. “CREATE CONSTANTLY.”
Thank you Arnold Butler/ @ab2ether.
Thank you artists.
Thank you creators.
Rest in peace, George Floyd.
Image from Arthur Butler’s March 24, 2020 Instagram post. Support his work @ab2ether. (Visual effects added by me, Riddim Writer.)