Following the murder of George Floyd, Portland painter Sadé DuBoise was inspired to create a series of social justice posters to hand out at the protests in and around Portland.
“When Black people see another Black person shot or killed from police brutality, it does something to us. It was hard for me to go to work. It was hard for me to concentrate and it was draining to go through the unrest in Portland, too,” she said. “I had this need for a collective healing, so I began making my own posters in resistance to this act that always happens. Everyone’s always asking, ’Ahhhhh, how did this happen?’ Well, it always happens.”
Shortly after Portland’s 2020 summer of unrest, friend and mentor Mark Jackson of REAP, a youth empowerment non-profit in Portland, encouraged DuBoise to apply for the newly formed Black Lives Matter Artist Grant from Jordan Schnitzer in partnership with the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Portland State University.
“So I applied and I got it and I was like, wow, now I get to further my practice in resistance work as a grantee.”
The result was The Collective Mourn, DuBoise’s largest work on canvas so far at 96x84 inches. The painting centers a Black man lying dead in his mother’s arms. Those versed in Christian art will immediately be able to identify the composition of mother and son as that of The Pietà, a depiction of a dead Christ in Mary’s arms.
In DuBoise’s piece, additional women surround the mother and son. “This painting concentrates on the mothers and a woman’s experience when a son passes from police brutality. And so this is a collective mourning by different women for this Black man.”
The Black Lives Matter Artist Fund exhibition opened February 2022 at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at PSU.
“The painting was such a stand out piece of the exhibition,” says Grace Kook-Anderson, curator of Northwest Art at the Portland Art Museum.
After the show and with the generous help of art collectors Helen and Richard Phillips, the Portland Art Museum was able to purchase the painting for its permanent collection.
“The Collective Mourn was the first piece we saw when we walked in the door of the Black Lives Matter Artist Fund exhibition. It was overwhelming, it really grabbed us. We just believe the public needs to see this,” says Helen Phillips.
The Collective Mourn’s premiere appearance in the museum is planned for June 2023 in an exhibition dedicated to Black artists of Oregon.