An interview with Makenna Toney creator of the “Stop Killing Us” artwork

Dublin High School 2020 Graduate and artist Makenna Toney, created an artwork entitled “Stop Killing Us” in response to the the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Stop Killing Us” painting by Makenna Toney

We approached Makenna about her creative process when painting the piece and these are her responses:

Q. In a time where many have been reflective about what they care about and what they value. What struck you most about the black lives matter movement?

A: As a black women myself I have always felt the pain and injustice embedded in me by my ancestors, so whenever I see injustice against my people regardless of its directed at me or someone else, I feel the hurt and pain of that person. Throughout the movement I’ve realized that I’m not the only person who feels it, and I was blown away by the way that people reacted. I was empowered seeing people from all walks of life get up and stand together to fight the injustice of the systematic oppression of my people.

Q. Describe your thought process when creating your artwork.

A: When creating this piece I wanted people to feel the magnitude of what they were seeing not just in my art but in the world. When making the piece it was a very draining process and I felt as if was putting all the pain of the people into the art, there were times where I wanted to stop because it felt so overwhelming, but that was the point of making this – not everything is rainbows and daisies. When seeing this piece I wanted people to take into account of every aspect of the painting, the size, the colors, the expression, the fact that I couldn’t fit all the names of the people who were wrongfully killed, and its a big painting (5′ by 5′). So when you see the piece I want it to sink in that this isn’t a new issue, and that we are sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Q. How would you expect viewers to respond to the piece?

A: I would expect a lot of different reactions from different types of people. Those who are living it and understand it, those you aren’t living it but want change, those who don’t like it or think that its not appropriate, those who may want to destroy it because they know its true and they’ve stood by as it happened and now are angry with themselves so they project it onto whatever they can and maybe those who think it isn’t a problem in the first place. The reaction of the person depends on if they are actually listening and thinking, not just looking but seeing what is.

Q. Have you been moved to create an artwork like this before in response to events happening around you? Have you produced any other artwork during lockdown?

A: The reason I create art in the first place is to cope with the traumas of life that I’ve been through. It’s my outlet to say the things that I could never actually say. The reason I’m alive today is because I have art to get me through the traumatic things that have happened to me in my life, and one of the weird things about me is that I can feel others pain as well. so when make art its not just for me but for those who didn’t know they needed it.

I’ve been constantly making art during the lockdown, you know this lockdown has forced me to be alone in my head and decide whether I like myself, and I cant always express myself verbally so I’ll get whatever I have to say down on paper in some sort of image whether or not it completely makes sense, I just do it and then figure it out later.

Q. How has your family responded to your creation?

A: my family has had a really great response to it. I’m from a mixed race family half white, half black and from both sides of my family they really took it in and realized its power. I have two older brothers and I feel like they really relate to this piece because in this world they have a huge target on their backs because they are black men and they understand that in this world they have to be very cautious when trying to live. I feel like my family is proud that I’ve used my talent to make something not for myself but for the people, and I think that speaks volumes.

Makenna Toney

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