Published 8:51 PM EDT Oct 4, 2018
San Francisco-based artist John Mavroudis had a sense the cover illustration he just produced for Time magazine might turn into the most prominent and controversial work of his career.
After all, Mavroudis had inserted himself into the heated national debate about Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault accusation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, using her own words from last Thursday’s Senate testimony to draw a powerful image of her face and right hand.
What Mavroudis wasn’t ready for was an email he received Thursday morning from a person he doesn’t know. It was a woman who the night before had a dinner-table conversation with her husband, who questioned Ford’s credibility because she had waited decades to come forth with her story.
It was at that moment the woman revealed to her husband for the first time that she’d also been sexually assaulted several years ago in her youth.
The email shook up Mavroudis and put into perspective for him the value of a discussion that has gripped the nation.
“In a very bad situation, that’s one of the best things since Christine Blasey Ford’s case has come to light, the fact other women are feeling free to tell their stories,’’ Mavroudis said. “I was on the BART train coming into work when I read it and I was like, ‘Oh my God.’’’
The online reaction to Mavroudis’ striking typographical portrait, which depicts Ford with her eyes closed and her right hand raised as she’s being sworn to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has been predictably mixed.
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At a time of extreme political polarization, Time’s posting of its latest cover had drawn more than 238,000 views on Twitter and 150,000 on Instagram by Thursday night.
The list of comments included this one: “Dr. Ford is a complete joke, and Time Magazine let me tell ya … You’re an even bigger joke,’’ from a user with the handle curransotomayor, and this one, “Congrats to @Time magazine for putting Christine Blasey Ford on their cover,’’ from jgibsondem.
Mavroudis himself had gotten more than 900 notifications on his Twitter feed, but was too busy to check them. He had received his first assignment from Time on Monday afternoon and asked to turn in the illustration by Wednesday, which prompted him to switch days off at his job as a graphic designer and work nearly overnight.
He and the magazine’s editors picked some of the more memorable comments from Ford’s testimony, making a point to avoid her more graphic or accusatory language about Kavanaugh and his high school friend, Mark Judge, the third person Ford said was in the room the night she was assaulted.
“I think it speaks to a moment in our country’s history. I’m conscious of that when I’m doing it,’’ Mavroudis said. “We wanted the focus to be on the trauma of whatever she went through and the courage it took for her to come up there.’’
Mavroudis, 56, referred to the process of creating the portrait as similar to putting together a jigsaw puzzle. He had used the same technique for a previous illustration of Donald Trump – which ran on the cover of The Nation magazine – and another one of Hillary Clinton, but neither attracted this kind of attention.
For the Time cover, Mavroudis based the portrait on one of the photos of Ford taking the oath. He chose the picture with her eyes closed because it struck him as more iconic, almost as if she were praying.
The message the illustration tries to convey is distinctly apolitical: “Just listen to what she’s saying. Hear her out,’’ Mavroudis said. “We can get back to the business of yelling at each other later. Please pay attention to her now.’’