ART: Marlon West’s Ink Tributes to Real Life Heroes Debuts at Museum of Social Justice in Los Angeles on 8/13

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Disney VFX Supervisor Marlon West (Iwájú, Princess and The Frog, Moana, Frozen) will have his own art on display in an in Los Angeles on August 13.

Since 2020, West has been drawing and posting ink tributes on his social media of African-American people slain by police or targeted by racists, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland and Michael Brown, to name a few.

“For many of us Black nerds, Marvel’s characters are particularly relatable. They are often hated and hunted by the powers that be,” West said.  “There isn’t a more American form of portraiture than black ‘inks’ over white, to honor those that faced this nation’s fear and loathing of the Black body.”

West has also posted ink tributes to civil rights leaders and protestors like John Lewis and Gloria Richardson Dandridge (seen below).

West, who is also a contributor to GBN (check out his prolific and eclectic Music Monday playlists on this site), recently did a Q&A with us to share more insight into the process and journey that led to his drawings and the upcoming exhibit:

GBN: When you started posting and sharing your drawings on social media, what was the response?

Marlon West: The response was very positive. They were met with surprise from many, as I had limited myself to drawing only effects and instructional drawovers for decades. It took being on lockdown, away from some of the best artists on the planet, and feeling the despair that so many of us did around George Floyd’s murder to move to draw what I initially thought would be four drawings. I’ve done more than 40.

Marlon West (photo courtesy Marlon West)

When you decided who you were going to draw, how did you decide what image of them to use?

Almost all of them are based on photos that have been widely seen. Many are in fact selfies taken by the subjects themselves. It felt very intimate to draw them, staring into their eyes while I did so. It was often tear inducing to do so for the hours it took to do each one. But I found it cathartic to sit alone and try to honor each one. 

Did you ever receive any feedback from any family or loved ones of your subjects?

A good friend knows Michael Brown Sr. I created, until this exhibit, the only physical copy of any of them to give to him. He was thankful, but understandably guarded. 

How did the museum display of your work come about?

My friend and colleague reached out to the museum regarding them. They were very receptive to the idea. I am super flattered and honored. They are also leaning into presenting them in the comic style nature that I drew them.

To attend this free event or to learn more, click here:

Follow Marlon at: FB: marlon.west1 Twitter: @marlonw IG: stlmarlonwest Spotify: marlonwest

West also recently organized the  “A Great Day in Animation” photo of 54 Black professionals in animation. Read more about that here.