Art Every Day 099

ImageThis past Saturday, at the Arts & Crafts market in the Woodward’s Atrium, I reconnected with Eileen, a woman who used to work at UBC (as did I). She told me that every day she walks past the tiny building I used to own (thisCastle) and enjoys the mural. She said, “It’s a real community landmark. Everybody down here loves it…I look at it every day, and it gives me peace…The work you’re doing now is great, but that mural is your crowning achievement…”

This wall used to have some paint splash marks on it, way up high, and it was prone to being tagged. Even though it was in a fenced and locked area, it and the east wall of the Chinese sausage factory were vulnerable targets. I thought about painting a mural on this wall, a mural based on a piece of mine, Crowtography II.

ImageCrowtography II had come out of a 2006 Foundation Year drawing class assignment to portray the embodied self. I had real problems making a literal self portrait, then it occurred to me to make this piece a literary portrait of my crow self, and after that decision, it was easy (that said, no good photos of this one, it’s 4 feet by 5 feet, has roughly torn edges, and the ground is butcher paper). Crowtography II would have made a brilliant mural, I think, on a wall with landscape orientation, but really, I didn’t think I could afford to do it, so I didn’t even look into the logistics of painting a mural. Yes, I am that lazy.

That said, I did think about a mural once in a while, and one day, in 2009, I came home from work and found a letter from, accompanied by a book published by, the graffiti management program of the City of Vancouver: they wanted to put a mural on my north wall, and wondered if I would donate the wall, and asked if I would I call them.

ImageI called them and spoke to an enthusiastic young woman named Kristina C*******. Kristina told me about the Great Beginnings Program and the Restart Program, and the community engagement in the process, and said that the city would pay for the mural, if I would let them use the wall. I asked what if I didn’t like the design, and KC said, “You get creative approval,” to which I said, “I have an idea for a mural.”

I told her I was an artist, and I told her about a photo that I had of my mother as a young woman, standing on the sidewalk on Pender Street, just north of Strathcona field, between Princess and Heatley, really just around the corner and down from my house. I told her some of my family’s history in the area, and the idea that I had of using the photo as the base image, and then extending it into the present, using the images of the houses that are still on Pender Street, and, of course, including some reference to the Crow Highway.

Kristina was thrilled with my involvement and my design ideas, and we started looking for an artist to help. We found Vincent D*******, a gifted young man who was super with a spray can. I gave him some source images, and he got to work distilling one piece of art out of the many images that I’d provided. I think he did a smashing job. Fun fact, Vincent made the woman’s face older, middle aged, and she turned out looking like all of my mother’s mother and her sisters, particularly my Great Auntie Doris.

Once he and his minions started painting, it took them less than a week to finish, and it turned out beautifully. Eileen wasn’t wrong about the community involvement with this mural: once, when I still lived there, a man stopped me on the sidewalk to say this: “I’m half Chinese and I don’t know anything about my ancestors. I like to imagine that she’s part of my background.” which I found very touching.

With this mural, named The Crow Highway, I have been able to honour my mother, and all the mothers before her.  Ancestors: I have lots, and I’m willing to share them with the rest of the community.

I’ve been told it is now an L1 portal in the Android game Ingress. If you want to see it IRL, it’s at the southwest corner of Hastings and Jackson in Vancouver. It can be seen in Google Maps street view, the address is 419 Jackson Avenue, Vancouver, Canada. If you want to see the City of Vancouver’s mural website, it’s here:

~ by thiscassandra on Tuesday 10 December 2013.

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