Memoriam

04.13.12

Trayvon Martin: Painted by Chaz Guest (PHOTOS)

One Los Angeles artist, a favorite of President Obama, has captured the Trayvon Martin tragedy in paint. How Chaz Guest is honoring the teenager’s legacy.

Images of Trayvon Martin have been splashed across the news, along with George Zimmerman’s mugshot, and stories of the teenager walking home with a bag of Skittles and iced tea that fateful night. The president has spoken out, and now Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder.

Guest says he plans to use the money from the sale of the works to support Trayvon Martin’s younger brother, who’s still a toddler.
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"Run, Trayvon, Run," Chaz Guest, 2012 ()

Now, a Los Angeles-based artist tells the story, with two paintings that depict Martin’s death. Chaz Guest—whose works are owned by Denzel Washington, Tyler Perry, and even President Obama—has produced two large-scale canvases inspired by the tragic shooting: Scream (Heard Across the Nation) and Run, Trayvon, Run. One depicts Martin being shot through the chest, with eyes closed and mouth agape, a kind of eerie death mask that will be etched in the memory of viewers. Skittles fly up behind him, a reminder of the reason Martin went to the store that night. In the background, the Angel Gabriel bears witness. “As I was painting, I was asking the question: Why wasn’t he saved by an angelical force?” Guest told The Daily Beast by phone. “Why has he chosen to scream across the nation?”

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"Scream (Heard Across The Nation)," Chaz Guest, 2012 ()

Guest, who is African-American, says he has been haunted by Martin’s story since it surfaced in the news just over a month ago. He has a 17-year-old son himself, and says he’s suffered several sleepless nights thinking about the avoidable tragedy. “My biggest message is that I don’t want us to ever forget this,” he says, explaining that he decided to paint the incident as a form of therapy.  “I wanted to paint something that would probably alter people’s consciousness.”

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Chaz Guest gave President Obama his portrait of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, which now hangs in the president’s private study. ()

Guest says that he plans to use the money from the sale of the works (which he estimates will be priced at around $40,000 each) to support Trayvon Martin’s younger brother, who’s still a three and a half. (According to the Martin’s family lawyer, the boy’s mother does not want to release his name.) Guest says he suspects that the young boy will grow to feel tortured as a result of his brother’s death—since Trayvon went to get him Skittles from the store that night. “I want to let him know that I have his first semester covered,” Guest says of the boy. “I want him to know that the only way around being tortured is that you begin to make a difference.” He pauses. “Maybe he’ll study law.”