Today I watched and listened to interviews with artist Titus Kaphar as research for my internship. I'd never heard of him before today but from a simple Google search, his art is incredible and inspirational.

Titus Kaphar, TED2017, Can art amend history?

Artist Titus Kaphar makes paintings and sculptures that wrestle with the struggles of the past while speaking to the diversity and advances of the present. In an unforgettable live workshop, Kaphar takes a brush full of white paint to a replica of a 17th-century Frans Hals painting, obscuring parts of the composition and bringing its hidden story into view. There's a narrative coded in art like this, Kaphar says. What happens when we shift our focus and confront unspoken truths?
It wasn't until his late 20's that Kaphar began painting. The absence of blackness in Kaphar's art history classes inspired him to do his own research begin painting at 27 years old.
In the TED Talk, Kaphar unveils his painted replica of a 17th century Frans Hals painting Family Group in a Landscape. With a paintbrush in hand, he points out details of the composition that represent hierarchal power and class, covering them in white paint live on stage. He covers the faces of the white figures, our focus now on the black character, the shortest person in the frame, hiding in the background.

Statue of Theodore Roosevelt outside the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The statue will be removed, the city announced Sunday. Photo by Roberto Machado Noa / LightRocket via Getty Images

Titus Kaphar (American, born 1976). Shifting the Gaze, 2017. Oil on canvas, 83 × 103 1/4 in. (210.8 × 262.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, William K. Jacobs Jr., Fund, 2017.34. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: Image courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery, CUR.2017.34_Jack_Shainman_Gallery.jpg)

He says this isn't about eradication, and by mixing linseed oil into the white paint it becomes transparent over time. History is impossible to erase. But as black artists, confronting the past and highlighting our faces is a way of reclaiming our power and humanity.
"...what I'm trying to show you, is how to shift your gaze just slightly, just momentarily... What is the impact of these kinds of paintings on some of our most vulnerable in society, seeing these kinds of depictions of themselves all the time?", Kaphar says before adding more paint to the canvas, signing his name, and dropping the paintbrush.
Time Magazine, June 15, 2020. TITUS KAPHAR, “Analogous Colors” (2020) by Titus Kaphar. | © Titus Kaphar
Time Magazine, June 15, 2020. TITUS KAPHAR, “Analogous Colors” (2020) by Titus Kaphar. | © Titus Kaphar
TITUS KAPHAR, “Twisted Tropes,” 2016 (oil on canvas with antique frame). | Eileen and Richard Ekstract, ©Titus Kaphar. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
TITUS KAPHAR, “Twisted Tropes,” 2016 (oil on canvas with antique frame). | Eileen and Richard Ekstract, ©Titus Kaphar. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
These two paintings are featured in “Unforseen,” Titus Kaphar’s exhibition currently on view at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. From left: TITUS KAPHAR, “Behind the Myth of Benevolence,” 2014 (oil on canvas). | Collection of Guillermo Nicolas and Jim Foster, © Titus Kaphar. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; and TITUS KAPHAR, “Drawing the Blinds,” 2014 (oil on canvas). | Collection of Dr. Charles M. Boyd, © Titus Kaphar. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
These two paintings are featured in “Unforseen,” Titus Kaphar’s exhibition currently on view at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. From left: TITUS KAPHAR, “Behind the Myth of Benevolence,” 2014 (oil on canvas). | Collection of Guillermo Nicolas and Jim Foster, © Titus Kaphar. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; and TITUS KAPHAR, “Drawing the Blinds,” 2014 (oil on canvas). | Collection of Dr. Charles M. Boyd, © Titus Kaphar. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
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