Erizku is a multidisciplinary artist working in photography, film, sculpture and installation, creating a new vernacular that bridges the gap between African and African American visual culture, referencing art history, hip hop and spirituality, amongst other subjects, in his work.
“I was interested in allowing her to own the space that she’s in right now,” Erizku says. “We were going for timelessness, something that felt classical” and tied in to the “resurgence of a Black renaissance.”
It was a special moment for him, too. “Like many who witnessed the recent presidential Inauguration, I was captivated by her poem and her exquisite delivery,” says Erizku, who is based in Los Angeles and has exhibited at institutions including New York City’s Museum of Modern Art and the Studio Museum in Harlem. “For TIME, I wanted to extricate her from the political dimension and immerse it in a more cosmic atmosphere to add to the weight of her words.”
In a separate image featured inside the magazine, Gorman holds a white birdcage in a nod to the birdcage ring she wore on inauguration day. (That ring was a gift from Oprah, referring to previous inauguration poet Maya Angelou’s poem, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”)
“It needed a layer of depth that only poetry can explain,” Erizku says of the image.
A team of Black creative professionals prepared Gorman for the portraits: Jason Bolden styled her, Autumn Moultrie did her makeup, Khiry provided jewellery and the dress was from Greta Constantine.
The issue features Michelle Obama in conversation with American poet Amanda Gorman, whose poem ‘The Hill We Climb’ read at Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony touched hearts and minds all over the world. The article, which covers issues such as the role of art in activism and the pressures Black women face in the spotlight, is also accompanied by a video shot and directed by Erizku.