Monday, March 1, 2021

Her Rolled Up Sleeves Represent the Work to Be Done: Illustrator Kadir Nelson on His Inspiring New Yorker Cover ‘Election Results’ (Video)

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The New Yorker, Nov. 23, 2020 issue. Cover illustrated by Kadir Nelson

*Illustrator Kadir Nelson talks about capturing some semblance of hope in his new cover for The New Yorker’s Nov. 23 issue.

The image shows a young girl of color – a blue flower in her natural hair – holding an American flag and looking forward with a smile brimming with confidence. The image appears to honor both the generations of young Black girls who now see themselves in the nation’s first female and African American vice president, Kamala Harris, and the untold legions of Black women whose political activism was the sling-shot that got Harris and President-elect Joe Biden into the nation’s highest office.

“What’s most important is communicating the feeling behind the image, and, in this instance, less is more, Nelson says in an interview with The New Yorker about the image. “The sole figure forces the viewer to focus on the idea that I’m trying to convey. That idea is about hope and promise, but it’s also about work—the work it took to achieve the results of this election, and the work we’ll have to do in the months and years to come. The blue iris flower in the girl’s hair represents hope, and her rolled-up sleeves gesture to the work that needs to be done.”

“I hope the world will safely open up once again after the pandemic has passed,” he continues. “I hope for certainty and finality with our recent election and for a peaceful transition. And I hope that young girls around the country and the world will learn and accept that there are no barriers they can’t overcome. Sometimes all we need to know is that what we want to achieve is possible.”

Nelson is known for painting African-American icons who have inspired him, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., baseball star Jackie Robinson and Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm.

Below is a CBS News interview with Nelson from April 2020 about his work offering inspiration during this pandemic-filled election year.

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