It’s almost done. The scaffolding has come down and we will finish it in the full light of day. Long and short – an easy gig for the scaffolding guys. They pull down the “pallete” planks spotted in bright colors of the painting process. The corner site revealed; it’s dimensions, angles, views. The last steps of painting ahead, touch ups, and adding small birds flitting around furiously.
Racing to finish before the scaffolding comes down. Choice comments overheard by the small legless man with the big personality “I am not a heart attack, I am a coronary arrest!!!” Or by the passing poet. “That green is mean. That white is tight.” Or the two corner customers “ They can smell the junkie on you. And that’s just a fact.” I neglect to mention the continuous heartfelt thanks we get from people passing by all day. “You are so talented. Hollywood is going to discover you” Or from the Native American man “When the Hummingbird appears it brings good times.”
This site is mixed in with working people, elderly, children, tourists, immigrants, neighborhood residents, artists, students, post office employees and people picking up their packages. And of course the broken and discarded people, the drug dealing, the violence and anger. The ranting and raving. Can the moments of shared appreciation of color and image, of creative activity alleviate the pain of poverty on this corner in America? Probably not by much. But what I do know after 30 years of scaling inner city sites is that these images take their place in the public consciousness and in our social imagination. Images are powerful.
We must insist on art, meaning and creative exploration that is accessible and non-commercial. The very small percent of people who hoard the money of our country should not be the only ones who enjoy the “arts”. I have my doubts as to whether the power/money set even consider this painting art at all or just waste of effort. They are not willing to support the education, health, arts, infrastructure, immigrants and working people that would strengthen our society. They keep on the blinders and enjoy their gated lives as things crumble around them. They have their own pharmaceuticals to ease the pain of their disconnect. Over the counter, under the counter, in crystal glasses or a paper bag, it’s all the same.
Creative practice keeps us fluid. The genuine interactions we have with people “the public” “the community” can only take place in this context of art making. It opens up discussion – communication. Even the drug dealers express their appreciation, point out scratches and marks while we generally ignore and keep an eye on each other at the same time.
End of the week. Three day weekend. Hot on the site today. The drug store was open. The self mutilating blond’s name is “Peaches”. She had tons of make up on and a metallic purple handbag in the shape of an electric guitar. Trying to get the top of the mural done so they take can the scaffolding down. It’s been a refuge, a shelter from sun and rain, from the police, a place to sleep, pass through, shoot up, smoke and paint.
It rained on Tuesday. The planks were wet but seemed “fresher”. Cristina came on Wednesday. She finds our all sorts of things since she speaks Spanish. A dealer made lots of conversation with her today asking questions about the mural to avoid the “undercover” cop hanging out nearby. He told her he couldn’t leave so as to appear too obvious. The colors and brushstrokes look so different as the light shifts through the day . You think you are done in the morning but in the evening light the rough edges show.