Artist cap­tures a his­toric mo­ment

Mag­a­zine cover of Ford elic­its strong emo­tions

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - NEWS - Jorge L. Or­tiz

San Fran­cisco-based artist John Mavroudis had a sense the cover il­lus­tra­tion he just pro­duced for Time mag­a­zine might turn into the most prom­i­nent and con­tro­ver­sial work of his ca­reer.

Af­ter all, Mavroudis had in­serted him­self into the heated na­tional de­bate about Chris­tine Blasey Ford’s sex­ual as­sault ac­cu­sa­tion against Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett Ka­vanaugh, us­ing her own words from last Thurs­day’s Se­nate tes­ti­mony to draw a pow­er­ful image of her face and right hand.

What Mavroudis wasn’t ready for was an email he re­ceived Thurs­day morn­ing from a per­son he doesn’t know. It was a woman who the night be­fore had a din­ner-table con­ver­sa­tion with her hus­band, who ques­tioned Ford’s cred­i­bil­ity be­cause she had waited decades to come forth with her story.

It was at that mo­ment the woman re­vealed to her hus­band for the first time that she’d also been sex­u­ally as­saulted sev­eral years ago in her youth.

The email shook up Mavroudis and put into per­spec­tive for him the value of a dis­cus­sion that has gripped the na­tion.

“In a very bad sit­u­a­tion, that’s one of the best things since Chris­tine Blasey Ford’s case has come to light, the fact other women are feel­ing free to tell their sto­ries,” Mavroudis said. “I was on the BART train com­ing into work when I read it, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ ”

The on­line re­ac­tion to Mavroudis’ strik­ing ty­po­graph­i­cal por­trait, which de­picts Ford with her eyes closed and her right hand raised as she’s be­ing sworn in to tes­tify in front of the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, has been pre­dictably mixed.

At a time of ex­treme po­lit­i­cal po­lar­iza­tion, Time’s post­ing of its lat­est cover had drawn more than 238,000 views on Twit­ter and 150,000 on In­sta­gram by Thurs­day night.

The list of com­ments in­cluded this one: “Dr. Ford is a com­plete joke, and Time Mag­a­zine let me tell ya … You’re an even big­ger joke,” from a user with the han­dle @cur­ran­so­tomayor, and this one, “Con­grats to @Time mag­a­zine for putting Chris­tine Blasey Ford on their cover,” from @jgib­son­dem.

Mavroudis him­self had got­ten more than 900 no­ti­fi­ca­tions on his Twit­ter feed but was too busy to check them. He had re­ceived his first as­sign­ment from Time on Mon­day af­ter­noon and asked to turn in the il­lus­tra­tion by Wed­nes­day, which prompted him to switch days off at his job as a graphic de­signer and work nearly overnight.

He and the mag­a­zine’s edi­tors picked some of the more mem­o­rable com­ments from Ford’s tes­ti­mony, mak­ing a point to avoid her more graphic or ac­cusatory lan­guage about Ka­vanaugh and his high school friend, Mark Judge, the third per­son Ford said was in the room the night she was as­saulted.

“I think it speaks to a mo­ment in our coun­try’s his­tory. I’m con­scious of that when I’m do­ing it,” Mavroudis said. “We wanted the fo­cus to be on the trauma of what­ever she went through and the courage it took for her to come up there.”

Mavroudis, 56, re­ferred to the process of cre­at­ing the por­trait as sim­i­lar to putting to­gether a jig­saw puz­zle. He had used the same tech­nique for a pre­vi­ous il­lus­tra­tion of Don­ald Trump – which ran on the cover of The Na­tion mag­a­zine – and an­other one of Hil­lary Clin­ton, but nei­ther at­tracted this kind of at­ten­tion.

For the Time cover, Mavroudis based the por­trait on one of the pho­tos of Ford tak­ing the oath. He chose the pic­ture with her eyes closed be­cause it struck him as more iconic, al­most as if she were pray­ing.

The mes­sage the il­lus­tra­tion tries to con­vey is dis­tinctly apo­lit­i­cal: “Just lis­ten to what she’s say­ing. Hear her out,” Mavroudis said. “We can get back to the busi­ness of yelling at each other later. Please pay at­ten­tion to her now.”

“Just lis­ten to what she’s say­ing. Hear her out. We can get

back to the busi­ness of yelling at each other later.”

John Mavroudis, artist who cre­ated Time mag­a­zine cover il­lus­tra­tion


Artist John Mavroudis used words from Chris­tine Blasey Ford’s tes­ti­mony be­fore a Se­nate com­mit­tee to cre­ate a ty­po­graph­i­cal il­lus­tra­tion.

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