There are a lot of ugly circumstances surrounding the case of Trayvon Martin's death. But one Florida artist has turned his feelings about the tragedy into artistic expression -- and he's hoping it'll inspire others to speak out, too.
Tampa resident Leon Bedore, who produces screen-printed art under the name Tes One, is selling copies of a poster he created called "Stand Our Ground," which of course references Florida's Stand Your Ground law that officials say blocks their right to investigate George Zimmerman, Martin's shooter.
"This law allows for any vigilante to shoot somebody and claim self defense," Tes One explained. "It's a frightening thing."
"The law doesn't address what a law should do, which is protect the public, the innocent, the unarmed," Tes continues. "It kept becoming a glaring thing to me: 'Where is our voice in this? Where is everybody else?' The idea and concept really revealed itself to me."
He also realized he wanted to make a difference in a more tangible way, so he partnered with Michigan-based company 1xrun to produce his work affordably. "All proceeds from this print go to charity," Tes says. "This is not an opportunity to make money off of this. Really, it's just awareness, and to provide a voice." The Justice for Trayvon Charity will receive the proceeds.
The 34-year-old Tes has been making art for years in the Tampa area; he graduated from the Pinellas County Center for the Arts program in 1996, and has since shown his work in New York, San Francisco, and Miami. "I've been out to Miami for Basel, and usually I'm quite involved in projects that go on," he says. You might recognize him from Graffiti Gone Global's pop-up gallery at last year's Art Basel, or from the murals he's completed in Wynwood.
But Tes says that his work isn't usually so blatantly political. "It's a rather new realm for me," he admits. "I've noticed that I'm gradually progressing in a more social commentary direction ... Inequality is something that is always going to be an important topic in my work. I did a painting last year called 'Honesty is the Best Policy,' which addresses the inequality of gay marriage and equal rights for all people to be able to get married."
When it comes to his most recent work, Tes says, "If I could stress anything, it would be the effort against the [Stand Your Ground] law, the awareness of the law. This poster or print is not at all intended to be a racial statement, although I'm quite sure people will interpret however they choose to. But my intention as an artist is to provide a voice for the rest of us -- any race, any color. We could become victims of this flawed law at any moment."
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Prints of "Stand Our Ground" go on sale at 1xrun today at noon. The cost is $50.