I Can’t Breathe,” by Carl Dixon

November 16, 2020
(Used by permission of the artist)

George Floyd’s dying words on a Minneapolis street have become a lament for the nation. They appear in this carved panel, mixed-media piece by Carl Dixon as the text for what he calls a “sermon in wood” about the many ways people are struggling to breathe free in these troubled times. Beginning with an image of Floyd with the restraining knee of a police officer on his neck, the Mississippi folk artist shows sign-carrying protesters choking from tear gas and a COVID-19 patient on a ventilator. The masked angels in heaven send the message that covering your face saves lives. The panel is dominated by a depiction of the crucified Christ, offering his last breath in an act of redemptive love. “We’re in a time now when none of us can breathe,” says Dixon. “We all feel this pressure weighing down on us and we want it to let up. That’s why I included Jesus on the cross. You know for sure that when he makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”