These Angry Woebots amuse me. I wasn’t sure of the artist’s intention with the beady, but blue eyes. Were we supposed to think of angry panda bears I wondered? And so I looked up the artist. Maybe I’d learned something in art class after all; I wasn’t far off the mark. The artist, Aaron Martin, is described as famous for his “stressed out emotional pandas, which represent the story of struggle”. Still I struggle not to be amused and wonder more about the area surrounding the mural. Is this a wall that once was covered with neighborhood graffiti and now a slightly lighter approach was offered?
Saturday, March 23, 2013
Looking at murals in class was soothing; when it comes to the arts I am easy to impress. I do enjoy painting large surfaces, making a slightly dingy wall come to life again and I can paint a mean stripe; our master bedroom looks like a “circus tent” according to my husband. Yet last year I was asked to co-teach an art class for the first time and my discomfort was palpable. Detailed painting to me means window trim. Thankfully the art teacher upon whom they dumped me was a generous man. Today I want to share what is right in Richmond that I’d never known about until I became an art “student”. Perhaps you’ve all seen the g40 murals, maybe you even drive by one each day, but me… well I was never a student of the arts before. Had I driven past one before I may have been charmed and amused by the “graffiti”, admittedly I never would have thought that a world famous artist had done the work and that I should slow down or even stop. I guess it is safe to say I am now enchanted and educated.
A little background… Art Whino is a D.C. based art gallery which looks for fresh new talent from around the world and has a large existing base of artists, some 1200 total. Little did I know that Richmond had a new art district, but in art class I learned how 12 of the world’s top muralists from Art Whino were invited to Richmond in April of 2012 to create 20 large scale wall murals . Some of the murals appear to be bright, colorful and playful, like the bunny above. Others, like the robots below, most likely represent the human condition when we become entranced by electronics, be it television or film. Somehow I doubt the depth of the bunny’s message, but am looking deeper at the robots image. The placement of the murals teaches us even more about the images. The bunny located on the bright brick surface on a street corner, where nice cars park and the tree hangs over, give me the security of thinking this is fun. Yet the robots embody a deeper thought process, the placement more somber causing a viewer to think before smiling.
I consider this image, found on 18th Street, to be more reflective of the area. Although clean and tidy in appearance during daylight, I wonder if the dogs come out at night. Perhaps they even wear protective gear when they search for scraps. Although I have survived living in Boston and Philadelphia, I gravitate to trees, not pavement, and certainly not vacant lots. After living in the tri-cities area for fifteen years I know little of Richmond. I cannot tell you if a block from this dog mural is a Hyatt or a Marriott, all I can do is consider the art's placement and ponder the artist’s intentions.
My favorite mural is found on 1501 West Main Street by a Belgian artist, ROA. The first mural is found in Richmond, the second one is the one I discovered when trying to learn more about this artist. I’m not sure why the animals appeal to me, on their backs and suffering in the city, but I love the tail leading to the window, as if it were a fire escape one could slide down.
His twelve foot rabbit in Hackney is a subject of disagreement. Though the business owner had given ROA permission to paint, the Hackney Council wanted the “grafitti” painted over. ROA’s reponse was that he wanted to re-populate the city with animals. The Hackney Council felt it was their job to keep the streets clean and threatened two years ago to follow through sending the business owner the bill. A petition of 2000 saved the rabbit. Again I considered the placement; it reminded me of a cute, quaint street, maybe not wealthy, but I wondered why the Hackney Council considered the rabbit “unclean”. The rabbit though attracted 2000 with a powerful message to remain.
Perhaps as an “art teacher” (Ha, ha) I learned a little more about enjoying the view, but as a literacy student I now view the placement of the murals too. Take a drive and see what our city offers. I am planning a second drive, with a second view. And if I haven’t lost you yet, you might want to visit youtube to take the Richmond tour and see the artists at work. Enjoy.