Today I completed a new mural in the Plaza District. I’m excited to be a part of the “Free Wall” project they have started, especially since my passion for public art has become a focus of my art career.
I could really go on forever about the value of public art, but I feel like the most important part of the experience is really about creating ownership for the people who enjoy your art. Since we completed our mural last year, I’ve had countless conversations with people who comment on how much they love seeing our mural, and how it makes them feel. It’s been gratifying on so many levels and the impact certainly far exceeds any of my other work. Maybe classifying a mural as a backdrop is to over simplify it, but if the people of the community feel ownership of our mural, and it becomes part of their lives and their memories, then it’s the best way I can think of to communicate ideas, and have a positive impact on those around me.
The concept for my mural in the Plaza District is certainly allegorical, and although the name didn’t come to me until later, the initial idea was about recognizing your self worth, and acknowledging the struggles of the people who fought to make our lives better. I was thinking specifically about women, and the model for this mural was actually my friend, Brenna. She helps me take care of my babies when I work, and when I think specifically about women who make my life better, she is certainly near the top of my list. We help each other, and I think she’s a seriously badass lady.
OUR CROWNS ARE BOUGHT & PAID FOR.
There is a quote often attributed to Maya Angelou, but it was actually written by Toni Morrison in a eulogy for writer James Baldwin.
Baldwin was also a close friend of Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison. Upon his death, Morrison wrote a eulogy for Baldwin that appeared in The New York Times. In the eulogy, entitled “Life in His Language,” Morrison credits Baldwin as being her literary inspiration and the person who showed her the true potential of writing. She writes,
You knew, didn’t you, how I needed your language and the mind that formed it? How I relied on your fierce courage to tame wildernesses for me? How strengthened I was by the certainty that came from knowing you would never hurt me? You knew, didn’t you, how I loved your love? You knew. This then is no calamity. No. This is jubilee. ‘Our crown,’ you said, ‘has already been bought and paid for. All we have to do,’ you said, ‘is wear it.’
I believe he was speaking specifically about his experiences as a gay black man, but I also believe his sentiment applies to many people in different walks of life. Your worth is not up for debate. As a human person, your value is not assigned to you by anyone else. Your worth is your own, and it’s always been your own. If you will take up the crown, and just wear it, appreciating the struggles of those who went before you to make this life possible, then it’s yours. I am trying to raise my girls to value themselves, but to also understand that our life and what we enjoy is the result of so many other people. There is no power without acknowledging the responsibility we have to pay it forward.
So, maybe that’s a lofty ideal for a little street mural, tucked away in an alley, that will likely be painted over before the first frost. It’s also likely that most people won’t know the name, or the concept, or even what this giant warrior goddess is trying to say — but, every time someone stands in front of it, takes a photo with it, or shares it with someone else, I hope the idea will somehow take root in their consciousness.
You can see more of this mural on my Instagram: http://instagram.com/ecooperstudio