Kadir Nelson’s “Declaration of Independence”

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Instead of hosting back-yard barbecues for the Fourth of July, many New Yorkers gather in crowds throughout the city, to watch fireworks burst over the East River or to celebrate under the glittering lights of Times Square. For Independence Day, the artist Kadir Nelson chose to portray a young woman who, though she may be standing in the midst of the festivities, is anchored in her own private world. I talked to the artist about the delightful kitsch of Times Square and stumbling across unexpected sources of inspiration.

You’ve painted a few Fourth of July images. What inspired this one?

This year, my wife and I celebrated our wedding anniversary by taking an old-school excursion to a roller-skating rink. I noticed a stylishly dressed young African American girl skating around the rink as she looked at her phone. She had long braided hair, custom hand-painted skates, and was gliding effortlessly over the wooden floor to the loud music. I told my wife, “That would make a great cover painting for The New Yorker.” With that in mind, I upgraded her outfit with more luminous and celebratory accessories, and placed her in one of New York City’s most iconic settings.

For many tourists, Times Square is a non-negotiable stop, but what does it represent for you?

To me, Times Square is a mashup of over-the-top commercialism, tourism, street venders, big crowds, and Broadway theatres. It’s iconic New York City, a unique spectacle that should be experienced by everyone at least once in a lifetime.

Do you look forward to the summer?

I look forward to each season, but what I love most about summer is that I get to see and spend time with my family from the East Coast. I grew up by the water and love it, so if my schedule permits I travel to some distant shore to soak in the sea breeze.

You’re working on a book about the history of basketball. Any interesting discoveries?

There have been a great many. I’ve found the evolution of the game from its inception to its high-flying athleticism to be very interesting. In particular, the growth and development of the A.B.A. and women’s basketball has been very eye-opening.

See below for more covers that celebrate Independence Day:

“Independence Day,” by Harry Bliss

“What So Proudly We Hail,” by Christoph Niemann

“House Divided,” by Chris Ware

Find covers, cartoons, and more at the Condé Nast Store.

Sourse: newyorker.com

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