TIME 100 Talks
April 23, 2020 2:27 PM EDT

JR, the French artist and photographer who created the cover image for this year’s special TIME 100 issue, discussed finding meaning through art during times of loss during the TIME100 Talks:Finding Hope digital event Thursday.

Discussing the image he created for TIME’s cover — a 15-foot by 21-foot work of literal street art — JR said he was inspired by the idea that people, stuck inside due to social distancing orders put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, interact with the outside world by looking through their windows. He wanted to make an image that all people could see from their homes. The artwork shows a crosswalk on a Paris street with an image of an eye peering up in between the lines.

“The crosswalk is a beautiful thing that anybody worldwide can understand,” JR tells TIME. “Having an anonymous person looking through it with eyes of hope and a question and wonder of what is going on out there.”

Art by JR

JR said he searched throughout Paris for the right location, looking for a spot that could also look like any other city in the world. He landed on the right place in a quiet area of the city and made the artwork in less than a half hour, by pasting material down on the street.

“Depending on which situation you’re in right now, this image will talk to you differently,” he says. “Depending on if you’re fully confined, if you have to go to work every day, if you have to go to the hospital every day. That’s what I wanted to create — something that speaks to all of us, depending on our own narrative.”

This article is part of #TIME100Talks: Finding Hope, a special series featuring leaders across different fields sharing their ideas for navigating the pandemic. Want more? Sign up for access to more virtual events, including live conversations with influential newsmakers.

Write to Mahita Gajanan at mahita.gajanan@time.com.

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