The cover of this week’s issue of magazine, which includes a special report dedicated to the protests that have erupted nationwide in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by police in Minneapolis, features a harrowing cover by artist Titus Kaphar.
The image, titled Analogous Colors, depicts a black mother holding a silhouette of a child, which Kaphar created by cutting into canvas. The image references Floyd calling out for his mother during his arrest, as he was pinned to the ground and held down by police officer Derek Chauvin for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
The iconic red band surrounding the cover presents the names of 35 black men and women who have been killed by police or in other racist killings, including Floyd, Trayvon Martin, and Breonna Taylor. It marks the first time the magazine’s signature border has featured text.
To accompany the illustration on the cover, Kaphar wrote a poem titled “I Cannot Sell You This Painting,” in which he asks: “Are black and loss / analogous colors in America?”
“In her expression, I see the Black mothers who are unseen, and rendered helpless in this fury against their babies,” he writes in the piece. “As I listlessly wade through another cycle of violence against Black people, / I paint a Black mother… / eyes closed, / furrowed brow, / holding the contour of her loss.”
“I have given up trying to describe the feeling of knowing that I can not be safe in the country of my birth,” Kaphar writes, noting that neither his prestigious MacArthur grant nor his MFA degree from Yale University grant him safety from racial violence.
“This Black mother understands the fire,” he writes. “Black mothers / understand despair. / I can change NOTHING in this world, / but in paint, / I can realize her…. / This brings me solace… / not hope, / but solace/ She walks me through the flames of rage.”
The issue’s cover story details the aftermath of Floyd’s murder, from the protests in Minneapolis and in over 150 cities across the country, to the widely decried response to the demonstrations by President Donald Trump, who last week threatened protestors by saying: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
But the cover is not without its critics. On Twitter, writer Kimberly Drew asked why the name of Tony McDade, the black transgender man who was killed by police in Tallahassee, Florida, on May 27, was not included on the cover.
This is the second cover by Kaphar for . In 2014, he contributed an illustration of a group of protestors for an issue covering the demonstrations that followed the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.