Sunday, September 23, 2012

Check Out the Murals!

If you've ever drive through Grand Rapids, MN you can't miss the clues that Judy Garland of Wizard of Oz fame was from this remote Northern Minnesota town. The biggest hint comes in the form of a very large mural right on the main drag.

Rear entrance to the bank at 1118 Tower.
Here in the Twin Ports we've seen a lot of new murals and exterior wall decoration popping up. I think it's pretty cool. On the Superior side of the bridge there's been an art in the alley project going on. The decorated rear entrances of businesses there will help customers find their way once next year's Tower Avenue renovation has begun. Superior's main street will be a mess, but the buildings are starting to look pretty darn cool, from their alley views.

Rear entrance, Who's Bar, Superior
When we lived in Mexico public art was everywhere, both in the form of murals and statues. The famed painter Diego Rivera left imagery all around the country. I was impressed by the scale of his work, and the works of others in Cuernavaca, Mexico City and Monterrey. Unfortunately my slides from that time have not yet been converted to digital images for sharing online, but you can see some of Rivera's work here at this website.

This past Thursday I attended a small celebration of the completion of a mural on an exterior wall of Duluth's Twins Bar. The artist, who calls himself "This Is My War", was in attendance. There was wine, plenty of healthy finger food and a fair amount of very tasty Chinese food from the restaurant next door, courtesy Gene McKeever, I believe... or perhaps the bar. It was very good.. as was the company.

I asked the artist about how he became interested in art, and especially mural-sized work.

"This Is My War" at the Twins Bar
"I was attracted to art for as long as I can remember. Comic books and cartoon illustration were some of the early influences for me. As far as murals go, the graffiti graveyard sparked my interest to start painting as big as I can. Working with mediums beyond paint is a very important factor that goes into developing my art. I like to keep things interesting and new. Drawing, ink, watercolor, acrylics, wood stain, etc.. whatever i can get my hands on!"

The young man said that he is a graphic design major at UMD. "I love typography and letters.This is a type of art that fits into a whole different category, but helps me develop ideas in my studio art and murals. I hope for the future that I can dip my hands into an absurdly broad range of artistic expression."

As I finished a small plate of fried rice with Chinese vegetables, some one asked "This Is My War" whether he had to do some kind of diagram first. He shared how he did have to produce a concept, but that it was fairly loose and he was able to run with it or away from it.

"I got involved with the Hillfest/Twins Bar mural through Sandra Robinson. She helped me make all the connections and peruse the painting. Sandy worked really hard to make it all happen and I'm happy that it worked out positively. I am hoping this can be an influence for the community and help make a push for more public art."

This Danish mural catches the eye. Now that is scale!
Last year when the two manhole covers were placed with Dylan-themed art on them I was contacted by some people in Denmark who collected images of artistic manhole covers. That was quite a surprise, another variation of public art. Gene McKeever then mentioned a very large exterior painting on the side of a building in Denmark. I asked her to send me a picture so I could share it with this story. It's quite striking, wouldn't you say?

If you've never been to the Graffiti Graveyard, it's worth checking out. Maybe you'll find something there by the next up-and-coming Basquiat.

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