SAN JOSE, Calif. - Bay Area painting prodigy Tyler Gordon has been known to use his canvas to celebrate and mark moments in history. His latest project was no different, as his paint strokes paid tribute to the first Black woman nominated to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Last week, as Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson spent two grueling days fielding questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of her Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Gordon was getting inspired.
The woman he saw was not just a history-changing figure but one who represented all the important females in his life.
"When I look at Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, I see my grandmother, mother, and sister," he shared on Twitter on Friday along with a portrait he painted of her.
He was moved by what he witnessed as she maneuvered through some tough public grilling, while demonstrating fortitude, poise and professional composure.
"I see courage, strength and resilience, which has been a joy to witness!" the 15-year-old artist shared.
He created his portrait of Jackson in gray, black, and white on a bright yellow backdrop. She's shown looking straight ahead, with a resolute expression and holding up her right hand for a swearing-in.
"I chose to paint her being sworn in to show the promise she made not only to America, but to her own people as well. She represents a lot to so many looking up to her," the teenage artist shared with KTVU.
For a couple of years now, the San Jose teen has received widespread attention for his work. Perhaps the most notable was a painting he did in 2020 of then Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
He went viral after posting a time-lapse video of himself creating the Harris portrait as he sat along the Bay with the Golden Gate Bridge as a backdrop. The post received 1.5 million views and to his shock, led to a phone call from Harris herself.
Gordon has also received attention for his portraits of a wide range of celebrities from Jennifer Lopez to Kevin Hart and various members of the Golden State Warriors.
The artist especially delights in creating images of those who have broken barriers, as he himself has overcome struggles in his young life. He was born deaf. At the age of 6, he underwent surgery which helped him gain 50% of his hearing. He began to learn to speak but was left with a severe stutter. On his website, he shared how the stuttering led to bullying by many of his peers.
His physical challenges also included being wheelchair-bound for two years because of a vitamin D deficiency.
Through it all, he’s learned to turn to his art as an avenue to express himself and a source of empowerment. "Doing my art makes me feel free. I feel like I can do whatever I want," Tyler told KTVU in a Nov. 2020 interview.
His new portrait of the Supreme Court nominee was part of a series he’d been focusing on for Women’s History Month. "When I saw Judge Ketanji Brown on the TV and all over social media, I just knew this was an important moment to highlight," he said. "She was doing something big for young girls and boys of color, to follow in her footsteps."
The original painting of Judge Jackson, as well as prints, will soon be available for purchase.