By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) – A traveling art exhibition hopes to change the way people killed while in police custody are perceived by taking familiar images and making the portraits of these lives lost unrecognizable. “Imperfect Pixels” requires guests to look at these faces in a way they have likely never seen before, using a glass sphere, in order to bring their images back into focus.

(credit: CBS)

“I wanted to look at some of the lives that were lost in between grief cycles,” said Travis Sheridan, the creator of the exhibition. “It’s almost this forced opportunity for a person to see something that they might have walked by if they hadn’t stopped to pause.”

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Sheridan pixelated the portraits often used by media outlets for many of the Black men and women who became household names after their deaths. Their photos are presented upside down so the orb viewers hold flips their image correctly and makes their face clear again. The concept came to him after seeing another art installation and he began working on the project after the death of George Floyd. “Imperfect Pixels” features the faces of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, and Michael Brown.

“Once you see, you can’t claim you don’t see any longer,” he told CBS4 inside RISE Collaborative Workspace, which is hosting the series in Denver. “These stories resonate because they are true and these stories resonate because we are flawed.”

(credit: CBS)

The conflict between the reputation between each subject before and after their murder is part of the metaphor he hopes to demonstrate by flipping their photos upside down. Sheridan says it is similar to how their lives were turned upside down by their murder and the public scrutiny.

“We all experienced the death of folks like Elijah McClain differently,” he said. “If you look at Elijah McClain’s case, as close to perfection as you can get.”

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McClain is the 23-year-old Black man who died days after an encounter with Aurora Police that sent him to the hospital and then put him on life support. He was stopped on Aug. 24, 2019 after a 911 call regarding a suspicious person. While he acknowledges that in McClain’s case, it was hard to find a flaw in his life, he still wants the series to remind everyone that all humans are flawed.

“The weight of how much potential we’ve lost in the Black community,” Sheridan said. “Those flaws shouldn’t be a death sentence.”

(credit: CBS)

“Imperfect Pixels” traveled to Denver from St. Louis and will remain in Colorado into September. Sheridan shared that looking at the portraits always evokes a different emotion. He thought about graduation and life after school when he looked at Michael Brown while CBS4 was there.

“Every time I see it, I see something different,” he said. “Perfection should not be what is required just to reduce your chances of being killed.”

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The exhibit will be on display through its closing reception at RISE on Friday, Sept. 17.

Shawn Chitnis