Fingerprints individualize us. While that thought is lovely from a scientific standpoint, it’s hard to forget that the state can use these unique marks against us.
The Law & Order issue cover was a collaboration with A. J. Deets, a Portland-based artist who gave me free reign to experiment with color in her original work—the graphic black-and-white print shown in detail above. Different color combinations called up really different shades of meaning: bright colors felt childlike, reds were a little bit bloody, and the versions closer to black and white seemed too cold and impersonal once I got them on the cover.
I narrowed down the color choices to final two versions. I loved this multicolored pink-to-yellow gradient version because it felt warm and lush, reminding me more of the human hands that made these hundreds of prints. But eventually, the one in monochromatic shades of blue became a stronger, more unified image.
These blueprint-like fingerprints recall the legal context of fingerprinting. Now that I'm holding the actual print version of the Law & Order issue in my hands in full color, I also think of the creative process of making marks on paper, even of the gorgeous and gross mess of fingerpainting as a kid.
I love how even with the same set of hands, each separate touch or action leaves a different impression.
A. J. Deets is a mixed media and installation artist currently living in Portland, Oregon. Deets has exhibited work in Portland, New York City, and in her hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. For commission inquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kristin Rogers Brown is Bitch Media's art director. When not designing for Bitch, you can find her teaching illustration at PNCA, collecting paint swatches, and doing interpretive dance to the Law & Order opening theme.