Stefanie Jackson, Mercy, Mercy Me, 2010

The artist explains best: “Mercy, Mercy Me and other paintings from the What’s Going On series are largely inspired by Marvin Gaye’s eponymous album, which was the soundtrack of my childhood growing up amidst the rioting in 1960’s Detroit. Strangely, these riots had a sort of festive atmosphere despite being so destructive to the neighborhood, a feeling I have tried to incorporate into the painting. I can see how the subject matter relates so well to now.”

It’s a chaotic scene: smoke pours out of a burning building, people are holed up with a gun in a shop window, and the National Guard tank runs over a little girl’s doll. The girl wears a mask of a little white girl as a disguise. The fully covered National Guardsman in a gas mask contrasts sharply against the exposed black bodies in the picture; one woman is topless and praying for the melee to end, another woman in a transparent lace dress appears to be pregnant, while the man has no shirt and holds his hands high in the gesture of ‘Don’t shoot!’

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