More than 100 artists—visual, performance, musical, and otherwise—have joined together to take part in “Show Me the Signs,” a benefit auction that endeavors to bring renewed attention to ongoing issues of police violence against Black women. In addition to showcasing protest signs created by artists as wide-ranging as Cardi B, Rashid Johnson, Billie Eilish, and David Hockney, the auction will donate 100% of its proceeds to the African American Policy Forum’s #SayHerName Mothers Network, a campaign that helps mothers and families of Black women, girls, and femmes killed by police to elevate their stories and fight for justice.
“Black women and girls do not fit the most accessible frames of anti-Black police violence, and because of that, it’s difficult to tell their stories in a way that people recognize and remember,” Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw, AAPF’s executive director and founder of Say Her Name, said in a statement. “By working with the families of slain Black women, AAPF’s #SayHerName campaign resists Black women’s invisibility by telling their stories.”
April Bey, a Bahamian-born, Los Angeles–based artist and art educator, foregrounded that element of invisibility in her protest sign contribution, a watercolor portrait of her friend Brianna that incorporates hand-sewn glitter fabric. “My piece in particular has the words ‘I will not comply’ [written on it], which I hope conveys the defiance I have and many Black women have to being dominated and forgotten,” she told Architectural Digest. “We’re expected to comply to this status in society while still being strong and resilient for others who use us as objects and stepping stones.... I hope my sign burns the importance of Black women into everyone’s memory who sees it.”
A fellow artist featured in the auction’s impressive lineup, Autumn Wallace, told AD that she created her sign at a scale commensurate with the amount of grief she felt for the Black and brown queer femmes who continue to be left out of conversations about police violence. “When I made my sign, I wanted to make the issue larger than life, as it is,” she said. Her sign features an image of two hands encircling the message, “WE ARE WOMXN NOT TARGETS.”
An in-person exhibition of all the signs was on view at Blum & Poe L.A. earlier this month, and the auction will close on November 30. Other participants include Bruno Mars, Jim Carrey, Marilyn Minter, Usher, and Nathaniel Mary Quinn, among others. The wide range of artistic expressions really underscores the power of art to enact healing and change in equal parts, Wallace said.
“Experience leads to empathy, but everybody lives a different life, so artists must translate between experiences,” she told AD. “The effects and prevalence of police brutality has not been an easy translation; it involves awareness of systemic racism, economic disparity, mental health, sex work, suicide awareness, etc. The sheer quantity of signs, names, messages, and to-the-ceiling display in the exhibition overwhelm the viewer to lasting impact with the prevailing message that ignorance of these issues too often leads to death.”
Bey cited the long history of art as activism by people like Nina Simone. “Good art is a spoonful of sugar that helps difficult-to-swallow pills go down and stay down. The impact lingers for cultural and societal change,” she says. “Great film has done this. Great writers have. Art can reach a duplicity of audiences that span economic and cultural gaps in this way.”
In addition to the exhibition and benefit auction, there will also be a nationwide public art project that features protest signs from the exhibition on more than 90 billboards and digital kiosks across the country.
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest