This is not an article about the artist known as bunny M.
It’s an article about a person who learned something about herself and about her country from the waves of protests against racism that started with the May 25 death in police custody of a Black man in Minneapolis. What she learned moved bunny M to take action: She’s offering a piece of her art to spur donations to a racial justice group.
Bunny M doesn’t make political art and rarely gives interviews. But in the wake of George Floyd’s death, she has set out to bring attention to Color Of Change, which uses the power of social media as well as more traditional methods to, as the group puts it in its mission statement, “move decision-makers in corporations and government to create a more human and less hostile world for Black people in America.”
Color of Change has endorsed progressive candidates in local district attorney races and raised awareness about how the decisions that those prosecutors make can help rein in police departments. A campaign by the group resulted in major websites used for wedding planning pledging to cut back on promoting slave plantations as nuptial venues. Color of Change President Rashad Robinson has pressured Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about President Donald Trump’s incendiary posts.
Bunny M, who is white, said, “I don’t think my voice, to be honest, is that important right now. I do not feel comfortable in the spot light. I want to join and learn.”
Bunny M’s small personal evolution comes amid big public changes that have come since George Floyd died in Minneapolis under the knee of a white police officer. Denver’s school board last week voted unanimously to remove police officers from school buildings, a step pushed for years by advocacy groups that argued so-called school resource officers too often put Black and brown students on a path to prison. Also last week, state legislators passed a sweeping police reform bill that, among other provisions, strengthens limits on use of force. At the national level, Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order establishing a database that tracks police officers who have excessive use-of-force complaints in their records.
Perhaps the months of quarantine imposed because of the coronavirus put Americans in a contemplative mood that has made it easier to focus on this moment, bunny M said.
“There’s no averting your eyes,” she said.
She said she has been aware of racial injustice but that the issue has been brought home to her by the protests.
“For me, as a white person, I did not understand that a Black person might not feel safe dialing 9-1-1,” she said. “I feel stupid saying that.”
Bunny M, who describes herself as an introvert, joined one of the days of protests in Denver.
“I’ve never felt anything like this. I’ve never witnessed anything like this. I’ve never inserted myself into anything like this.”
Her art, intricate scenes of beasts and people that seem drawn from dreams, doesn’t lend itself to political statements. Bunny M paints on paper in her Denver studio and then pastes the results on walls around town. She’s reticent about the locations of her street art pieces, which also can be found in New York, San Francisco and Paris. Bunny M also has murals that she calls “more legal projects.”
She keeps an eye on her street art, touching it up as needed. She’d recently decided to paste a new face on a piece she calls “the Black Madonna.” She first painted it in 2013 in a row of shops and restaurants along 13th Avenue near the Denver Art Museum.
Bunny M completed a new face for her Madonna on May 24, the day before Floyd died. The predominately black and white painting includes tears in shimmering colors falling from the eyes. Bunny M said she has replaced the face at least a dozen times since 2013 and never before shown her Madonna crying.
After posting a photo of the new face on Instagram, bunny M began to see comments from people asking for prints and suggesting she sell them to raise funds. Bunny M had been looking for a way to take action against racism. She seized on the fundraising idea. She had heard about Color of Change. She did more research, diving into the group’s website. The Color of Change approach to racism, she said, was “like attacking a beast that’s very pervasive from all angles.”
Bunny M has never made prints of her work. She decided instead to hold a drawing for the Madonna she painted on May 24 (she painted a second to paste on the wall). People who donate between $25 and $49 get one entry in the drawing for a signed 24-by-20 inch unframed acrylic and graphite painting. Donations of $50 or more get two entries in the drawing. All the money donated goes to Color of Change. The fundraiser ends July 4, and the winner of the painting will be selected July 5.
Windows in businesses along 13th have been boarded up to protect them from damage during protests in which police have fired rubber bullets and other projectiles and people in crowds of protesters have lobbed rocks and plastic bottles. Boards on windows near “the Black Madonna” have been covered with slogans denouncing police brutality and commemorating Floyd and others killed by police.
Bunny M said her work allows her to reach out from the solitude of her studio to offer a moment of beauty to strangers.
“It’s like a gesture of friendship or love for people who might need it,” she said.
She did not paint any of the political graffiti, which she sees as “a way of sharing something that was deeply felt.”
“It’s a way of communicating to all when you feel like no one in particular is listening,” she said of the graffiti, adding she hoped “it would cause someone to think: ‘Why are they writing that? Why are they thinking that? What compels them to do it?'”