Look at the Common Denominator

NOTE: This piece is bigger than me. It is dynamic; its meaning changes over time as experiences and events mold our perceptions of self. It is therefore open to whatever interpretation you as a reader see fit.


After the murders of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Korryn Gaines and the slew of chauvinistic backlash that quickly followed, I was done. I was physically and emotionally exhausted, unable to cope with the indifference and dehumanization that I saw online. These shootings felt personal. So I turned to art, hoping to visually express my grief. Painting portraits is inherently intimate so I got to know the victims. I stared at their faces for hours, tracing and memorizing each intricate detail in their features.

‘Look At The Common Denominator’ was not only a way for me to come to terms with the shootings, but it was also an opportunity to display the sickening brutalization of black bodies to those who were too desensitized to feel any compassion. In order to highlight the relationship between police brutality and institutionalized racism, I asked my white father to destroy the painting. This sparked a conversation surrounding his whiteness, and how this affected me and others in the family, that needs occur in households across the nations.


After the destruction of the piece, my friend and I prepared a memorial for the victims. Although their identities were now indiscernible, they were celebrated and their pain was acknowledged. The memorial mirrors the current efforts of BLM and the #SayTheirNames movements which I deeply respect for their emphasis on keeping the memory of the victims alive.

So take this piece, use it as a springboard and think about your own involvement in the making of history.

by Catherine Farmer

Catherine Farmer