PENNSAUKEN, N.J. (CBS) — A South Jersey artist is using his creative talent to raise awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement and those who have become symbols for change.
Three-thousand four hundred Skittles. Countless man hours sorting, painting and hot-gluing them to a 30 by 40 canvas. The result is a striking portrait of Trayvon Martin.
The 17-year-old’s killing made national headlines after he was gunned down in 2012 by a man who told a 911 dispatcher the teen looked suspicious. Officers found no weapons on Martin, just a bag of Skittles candy in his pocket.
“Trayvon Martin came into my head right away,” said artist Courtney Newman, from his mother’s Pennsauken home.
Newman’s art covers a range of topics from the female form to celebrities to music. But he also doesn’t shy away from tackling difficult subject matter, especially now.
“Awareness is not going to get raised by itself,” he said.
Newman also enjoys the added challenge of using unusual materials.
“In some pictures, it’s like to see if I can succeed,” he said. “I’m just trying to get to the goal of pushing it forward to a different level.”
Bullet casings, some left raw and others painted black shape the faces of these dual 50 by 50 portraits of civil rights icons Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Both were assassinated by men with firearms.
“A lot of people tell me fascinating and they say decent,” Newman said. “It’s creative.”
Bringing you this neat Justice & Understanding story on @CBSPhilly 5:30pm. South Jersey artist Courtney Newman uses unusual materials to highlight figures who have become symbols for change. His artwork is even more striking in person! You can find him on Instagram @art_ist_life pic.twitter.com/XUnqdqgNVy
— Trang Do (@TrangDoCBS3) July 30, 2020
“I am so proud of him. Courtney is like an old soul to me,” said Newman’s mother Crystal.
Crystal Newman says her son, who has epilepsy, is a man of few words, but his art speaks for him.
“Being a Black man that experienced discrimination from time to time, it’s on his mind and who better to draw or focus his art on but a Black activist?” she said.
He’s currently working on a piece featuring George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, whose deaths have spurred a wave of activism nationwide against racism and police brutality.
“Just hopefully it makes a standpoint for the future and not just African-Americans, but people period,” Newman said.