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School of Visual Arts

New York Times Features Rudy Shepherd

Image provided by Rudy Shepherd

Penn State School of Visual Arts SoVA Associate Professor, Rudy Shepherd's work of his watercolor paintings, which "humanize" people in the news, and most recently his portraits of the Charleston shooting victims were a recent feature in The New York Times. Below is an excerpt from the article:

For years, Rudy Shepherd has made watercolor paintings to humanize people in the news.

Five days after the massacre of nine black parishioners in Charleston, S.C., in 2015, the artist Rudy Shepherd painted 9-by-12-inch portraits of two of the victims, Myra Thompson and Tywanza Sanders, and posted them to Instagram.

He made these watercolors quickly, relying on images from the news media, and spending two or three hours on each one. They racked up a modest number of likes and a few admiring comments.

Over the next week, Mr. Shepherd, who lives in Manhattan, made portraits of all the other victims: the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, Ethel Lee Lance, the Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, the Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons Sr., Susie Jackson, Cynthia Hurd and the Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor.

One aim of these paintings, Mr. Shepherd said in a recent interview, was to reclaim the humanity of those individuals, to depict who they were beyond that day. Too often the individual disappears amid the frenzy of reporting about a high-profile crime, he said.

He waited about a week, feeling hesitant, before he painted a portrait of their killer, Dylann Roof, whose federal trial is nearing an end. A jury recommended the death penalty on Tuesday.

“I felt like I had to do it,” Mr. Shepherd said. “And I was interested in the why of why I didn’t want to.”

All of these works are part of a decade-long series, now numbering in the hundreds, portraying people in the news — including Michael Brown, who died after being shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo.; Sandra Bland, who died in police custody in Texas; as well as pop-culture heroes like the Beatles producer George Martin.

Click here to read the complete New York Times feature.

Photo caption: A portrait of Myra Thompson painted by Rudy Shepherd in 2015.