Around sunset on my recent trip to the Poconos, I spotted these paint buckets in an alley off the main street in Stroudsburg. The artists were partway through an outlined mural and, apparently, taking a break. A few hours later, well after dark, I walked back by and spotted them on the scaffolding painting by headlamp.
Two fun glimpses into this artistic progress.
Over the course of the past month, Fazlalizadeh’s mural has started to peel slightly, cracking along the lines of brick, the residual paint of earlier murals. Everyday, this piece morphs and shifts, reveals a little more about what works came before it, becomes a part of the trajectory of the neighborhood.
There is something I love about the idea of these women — and this crucial message — becoming an integrated, organic part of place.
Jenny and James and I went for a walk in Station North this past weekend to see more of the murals. I love this one. The graphic lines of the woman’s age, the flat planes of sheets, drying. The evocative slope of her eyes and the arc of her finger, vigilant. Her wary surveillance of this neighborhood’s change.
The building is covered in murals: on its walls and in its windows. I find I like unbounded ones the best: these ones that seem to grow from the bricks and concrete of the buildings. Unframed, with no painted backgrounds, they fill these city shapes and spaces, their negative space formed by the background of this neighborhood.
Here is another one unbound like this: the telephone wires and winnowy trees interrupted only by the architectural squares of our own real sky, the boy about to ride out from this wall on his outsized bicycle. This moment is full of power: the boy’s size, the baroquian potential of his movement, his handlebars highlighted by the building’s silvered cement.
These pieces do not try to cover up their context; in their form and content they inhabit, insist, on place.
Tatyana Fazlalizadeh recently completed a Stop Telling Women to Smile residency in Baltimore. She was here for a week at the end of April, and this weekend I headed up to Station North and check out some of the results of her public art project.
Fazlalizadeh’s project in response to street harassment is powerful, and particularly impactful because she places it in the context of the streets where so much of this subtle and not-so-subtle gender bias plays out. Her residency in Baltimore included two public meetings with women from the neighborhood in addition to the street art she created.
Interestingly, I was stopped twice while walking through Station North to see Fazlalizadeh’s pieces. Both times by women, the first of whom asked me where I got my walking shoes, and the second of whom exchanged extemporaneous banter with me about the unpredictable weather this May (Neither of us ever knows whether to wear a jacket these days).
There was something light — almost defiantly jubilant, free — in both these conversations, the second of which happened right across the street from this Fazlalizadeh mural. There’s something to the idea that Fazlalizadeh’s pieces work to reclaim these public spaces. To re-gender them. To make them spaces for women to reach out to one another on sidewalks and engage in an entirely different form of discourse.
You can read more about Fazlalizadeh’s Stop Telling Women to Smile residencies in the New York Times. Or join my friend Jenny and me in coveting her prints on the project’s website.