the broad

Scorched Earth

Mark Bradford
billboard paper, photomechanical reproductions, acrylic gel medium, carbon paper, acrylic paint, bleach, and additional mixed media on canvas
95 1/4 x 118 1/4 x 2 1/4 in. (241.94 x 300.36 x 5.72 cm)

You might be surprised to know that this beautiful piece of work is actually inspired by a very ugly event from the past.

It’s called Scorched Earth and it’s by Mark Bradford. It was created in response to race riots in Tulsa, Oklahoma that ended with an African-American community being burned to the ground.

This was back in 1921, almost one hundred years ago. Before then, that part of town was known as a great place to live, where the people who lived there had mostly happy lives.

Mark’s work is a map – not just of the place, exactly – with all the streets and buildings, but a map of the feelings the people might have felt at the time.

The way he uses color and materials symbolizes specific details of this event.

There are many layers of paint and paper that have been scraped away – that represents the time and the people who have been forgotten.

He uses the color black not only to show the burned houses and land, but also to show the color of the skin of the people affected.

The top of the canvas is bright red, like fire.

Like Scorched Earth, many of Mark’s other paintings are made from pieces of paper that he finds or reuses. He used to do hair at his mother’s beauty salon – so he used hairdressing papers in his paintings. He also used paint from the hardware store instead of the art supply store.

Very resourceful!