Christopher Myers (b. 1974) creates works of art in a variety of media, from books and films to theater and quilts, that address the experience of people of color around the world. He has collaborated with the American artist Hank Willis Thomas (b. 1976) and with craftspeople and musicians in cities such as Ho Chi Minh City, Yogyakarta, and New Orleans. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, What Does It Mean to Matter (Community Autopsy) (2019) memorializes adults and children who have died at the hands of the police or while in custody. Acquired in January 2021, the work is the first by Myers to enter the National Gallery of Art's collection, made possible by a generous gift of Mitchell and Emily Rales.
A combination of sumptuous pattern and tragic content, What Does It Mean to Matter (Community Autopsy) was first shown at a 2020 exhibition of Myers’s fabric works at the Fort Gansevoort gallery in Los Angeles. The title of the show, Drapetomania, was a reference to both the draped medium of the works and the name of a 19th-century pseudo-disease used to pathologize the behavior of fugitives from slavery.
Myers has said: “The image of the autopsy sheet marked by a coroner has become central to the imagery and conversations of Black Lives Matter. Here I combine several of the wounds from some of the more high-profile cases. . . . I wonder what can be done to tell our young people that they matter, before they are inscribed in a coroner’s report. Included in the piece are the autopsies of Laquan McDonald, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown Jr., Antwon Rose Jr., Miriam Carey, Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., Ezell Ford, and Jordan Edwards.”