Silence, Little Five Points, Atlanta, Georgia, 2013
This wall mural is richly incongruous. The huge face is both surrounded and invaded by swirling kinetic splashes of color, expressing great turmoil and energy. Yet the face remains utterly impassive, as if it is determined to keep absolutely silent. I also liked the way the artist integrates the brick outcropping at right into the lip area, as if to stress the fact that his lips remains sealed, despite the onslaught of activity around and even within the face. Sometimes a wall can speak of silence. And this is just such a case.
Night Train, Little Five Points, Atlanta, Georgia, 2013
The railroad tracks in this scene seem to spring directly from the painted yellow parking lot lines just below this mural. A train rushes through the night, its approach heralded by what seem to be stylized seagulls fluttering just ahead of it. A swirling moon echoes the three orbs of light that illuminate the flock of birds. I particularly liked the almost seamless transition between the parking lot and the bottom of the mural – it gives us the feeling that the train is about to make a hard left turn, making fantasy into reality.
Big wall, big film, Venice Beach, California, 2012
“A Touch of Evil,” a 1958 movie directed by Orson Welles, and starring Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh, was set in a fictional town on the US-Mexico border, but much of it was shot on location in Venice Beach, California. Today, the site of the location shoot is a parking lot. I was delighted to find that the film is commemorated there with a huge black and white mural covering almost the entire wall of a building adjoining that parking lot. The mural is titled “Touch of Venice” but it is far more than just a touch. It shows Venice Beach as it looked at night in 1958, featuring illuminated arcades that once lined its main street for many blocks. (54 years later, only fragments of the arcades remain, along with the sign hanging over the street.) The mural is so large that the figures of Heston and Leigh stand at least a full story high. Using a wideangle lens, I draw scale comparisons between the cars in the mural and the actual cars in the parking lot. Three of the six cars in the parking lot at the time I made this picture happen to be white, which tie in nicely with the black and white mural. The film itself was shot entirely in black and white. The only color in the image is a red stripe on the hood of the white car at far left, the blue car with red tail lights in the center, the car draped in a beige protective cover (to protect it from the salty mist at night), and the red tail lights in the gray car at far right.
Remembrance, Venice Beach, California, 2012
A three story high mural honoring the memory of a local singer cleverly works its way down the side of an apartment building in Venice Beach. Most of the mural is out of my frame – I abstract it by incongruously including just the singer’s legs as they flow out of the vines that cover the entrance to the adjoining building. A rising foot acts as the pivot for the entire mural – it seems to rise from a cluster of ornamental grasses. The scale contrast is also incongruous, while the colors of the blouse and trousers work well with the square blue-gray tiles of the adjoining entrance walk.
Mural, Sayausi, Ecuador, 2011
This mural, running along one of Sayausi’s main streets, is rooted in primary colors, with blue predominating. I wanted to match its colors to the clothing of a passing pedestrian, and this person, wearing an Ecuadorian straw hat and a blue jacket fit my needs perfectly. The mural speaks of nature, with its starry night sky, fields of grain, and outsized insects and blossoms. It stands in stark juxtaposition to the concrete sidewalk and street that forms its base.
The long steps, Cuenca, Ecuador, 2011
Cuenca’s historic old city stands on a bluff, high over the Tomebamba River. Several huge staircases join the river with the old town, and most of those steps are garnished with contemporary examples of public art. In this case, it is a mural expressing a poetic pause in the middle of a city of concrete and rubber. The stylized faces reminded me of a Picasso sketch – I thought that including the steps in the foreground, diminishing in width as they flowed towards the mural, would suggest the cubistic era in which he worked.
Censorship, Cuenca, Ecuador, 2011
The underlying texture of this graffiti is made up of newspaper articles. Stenciled upon them is an expressive figure, eloquently silenced by swaths of underlying concrete. The news has been stripped away from the mouth area, across the neck, and even the forearm. The hand is gone, and in its place seems to be a flickering flame. Ecuador has been having censorship issues, so it did not surprise me to find such a plea pasted upon a wall in Cuenca’s old city.
Humanization, Buzios, Brazil, 2010
A street artist has humanized the walls of a drab utility box, transforming it into a whimsical human cartoon. I caught the light at just the right time of day – early morning. The low angle of the light softly sculpts the painted panels with shadow, making the cartoon figure seem as if it is just waking up.
Einstein, St. Barts, French West Indies, 2011
A temporary wall in downtown Gustavia displays a likeness of the man who authored the theory of relativity holding a sign telling us that love, rather than science, is the ultimate answer. I waited for a string of cruise ship passengers to approach the sign and made this image in mid stride. They seem bent on shopping in St. Barts, even though most of the shops were closed, ignoring the sentiment painted on the wall before them.
Proud paint, Mission Beach, San Diego, California, 2010
An alley wall offers a dual dose of patriotic symbolism. The rich colors seems to shout their proud sentiments from a heavily textured surface. This wall affirms the local support of political policies involved in dual complex and devastating wars that few passersby comprehend.
Street art, Boise, Idaho, 2010
A street artist left this interpretation of the Potato as King of Idaho, on a Boise alley wall. I move in on the work, abstracting it to stress the incongruous fractures dividing it down the middle. It seems to imply that this multi billion-dollar industry is, like many other farming enterprises, now facing difficult times.
Breakfast with the Dalai Lama, Stanley, Idaho, 2010
We were having breakfast at a coffee house in the tiny town of Stanley. At the next table, a reunion of some kind was in progress. I photographed them because a portrait of the Dalai Lama incongruously looks down on them from the wall overhead, apparently adding his blessing to the get-together. (As one of my travel companions notes in her comment below, the Dalai Lama apparently visited the Stanley area, and thus this well known portrait hangs on the wall of the town's coffee house.)