One of the banners pictured trailing an airplane above Miami. Credit: Jammie Holmes/Library Street Collective/Andre De Aguilar
In a press release, the artist said his elaborate project was inspired by “a need for unity and the understanding that what happened to George Floyd is happening all over America.”
“Our mothers are burying us way too early,” Holmes added. “My fiancée shouldn’t worry every time I’m headed out of the house on my own. Yes, I carry a pistol, Mr. Officer. I carry it to protect myself from you by any means necessary. At some point, you will realize you can’t kill us all.”
A banner seen above New York City. Credit: Jammie Holmes/Library Street Collective/Sue Kwon
Opposing a ‘culture of fear’
Hailing from Thibodaux, Louisiana, Holmes is best known as a painter. His art often depicts the everyday lives of black communities in the American South, while exploring the legacy of poverty and racism in shaping the area’s past. Holmes says that he, too, has been the victim of unspecified police misconduct on multiple occasions.
Posting on his website, the artist described a “culture of fear and hateful discrimination” in the US that had “increased in its intensity since 2018.” Holmes, who arranged the flying banners with the support of Detroit’s Library Street Collective, described the work as an “act of social conscience and protest” that were intended “to bring people together in their shared incense at the inhumane treatment of American citizens.”
He also used the post to explain his decision to switch his usual canvases for aerial ones.
“The use of sky media to recount Floyd’s final words presents a contrast to the noise of digital media and employs a form of communication that is most often used by the privileged to announce sporting events, marriage proposals or promote consumption,” the post read. “It is rarely used for political or social purposes — to exercise free speech — because it is an outlet unavailable to the poor and marginalized.
A banner flies above Dallas, where artist Jammie Holmes is based. Credit: Jammie Holmes/Library Street Collective/Mark LaBoyteaux
A close-up of one of the artist’s aerial works. Credit: Jammie Holmes/Library Street Collective/Hayden Stinebaugh
“I hope that people will be reminded of the power we can have to be heard and that coming together behind a unified message is key for real change,” he added.
TOPSHOT – Flowers, signs and balloons are left near a makeshift memorial to George Floyd near the spot where he died while in custody of the Minneapolis police, on May 29, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. – Demonstrations are being held across the US after George Floyd died in police custody on May 25. (Photo by Kerem Yucel / AFP) (Photo by KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images) Credit: KEREM YUCEL/AFP/AFP via Getty Images
Minnesota artist Cadex Herrera, who contributed to a street mural at the intersection where Floyd was arrested, described art as a kind of “therapy” for communities affected by tragedy.
“Art can say things you cannot express with words,” he said over email. “It brings the community together to reflect, to grieve, for strength and for support.”
Top image: A banner reading “Please I can’t breathe” flies above downtown Detroit.