Monday, April 30, 2012

the birdman of greenmount west

tony, the birdman of green mount, told me about his 9 year old neighbor who is learning about birding from him.  her name is johnnyasyia.  she stopped by today.  

tony and i  talked about my major fail attempting to get the image of his face up 3 nights ago.  i've never had an installation bubble off the wall, crack and tear within 5 hours of pasting.  but it did.  we had to buff it.  now, just a picture of tony's hat is all that remains on the first building while i prepare for an attempt on a 2nd building. 

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Sunday, April 29, 2012


i arrived in baltimore april 20th.  it was a week after friday the 13th.  i was walking with gaia + nanook in sowebo late friday night going to a local chinese take out since i hadn't eaten all day.  it'd been a long day of flying, almost missing flights, and so on.  i was stressed about what lay ahead and excited at the same time.  as we were walking and talking i saw coming up a neighborhood street, illuminated by street lights, a young black woman riding a white horse.  there were 3 black guys walking with her.  the image was surreal and struck me deeply.

since this is martha cooper's neighborhood and she knows everyone in it from doing a street photography project there for the past 5 or more years, i had her take me to the stables.  there i learned about baltimore's tradition of "a-rabing" or black men walking beside horse drawn carts from which they sell produce + fresh fruit, peanuts and whatever.  i vaguely remember as a kid seeing that in my grandmother's neighborhood.  anyway, it's unusual for me to see horses in the context of the city.  i'm used to navajo people herding sheep and cows by horseback.  i'm not used to seeing young black girls ride them down city streets at night.  thank you baltimore for beauty when it's least expected.

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open walls baltimore

i collaborated with a local street artist here in baltimore named nanook.  i wanted to do a piece that recognized martha cooper, a baltimore native who is almost singelhandedly responsible for documenting early work on trains in nyc.  she and henry chalfant did a bood called "style wars" that writers the world over consider their bible.

nanook + i took martha's image and tweaked it a bit.  nanook projected the photo and traced an outline then filled it with graphite shading using the floor of his studio as the background texture making up the kid's body.  i took a photograph of the floor and made that into the kids clothes. we placed his image on either side of the alley such that it looks like the kid is racing against himself while looking at his twin.




nanook's piece viewed from marion's kitchen window

the nice thing about this trip to baltimore is getting a chance to know the people in andrew's neighborhood where the mural project is based.  it's been interesting considering what the role of street art is in contributing to the gentrification of a neighborhood by increasing property values.  will the historically black neighbors get displaced over time?  

i met a man on the street today who was admiring the alley piece.  his name is sam.  he's a veteran of the viet nam era and was stationed in italy and spain.  he loved meeting sten + lex and learning that they're from rome.  it brought back fond memories for him.  he said his mom and grandmother lived in a little, now abandoned, row house 75 years ago as he stood pointing to the abandoned building.  his history is in that neighborhood.  will he get displaced if the neighborhood becomes too upscale?  it's been insightful talking with other artists and people associated with community development about this.  the thinking here is that as long as housing urban development (hud), is here subsidizing housing, long term black residents will have a home here.

the community is mixed.  there are artists, gays, black and a few whites.  i'm thankful for the love they've given us.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

tony's birds

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

owen dreams of atomic sheep

the navajo nation observes daylight savings time.  it gets dark now around 8:15 which i love because it gives me time to go out after work to get some pasting done.  yesterday was absolutely amazingly beautiful.  normally i listen to music while i'm working.  because i didn't know if i get shut down while working on the tank, i listened to ambient sounds - the clanking of my ladder against the tank, vehicles in the distance and that was about it.  soldier ants had a nest right where i was working and left me with several potent bites at inopportune times atop my ladder.

i got the last piece up just before dusk, moments after the sun fell below the horizon. 

day 2
storm front moving in.  daytime highs will go from the 70s to the low 40s with snow forecasted.  so much for apples again this summer...

several friends shared with me the march 31st ny times article on the havoc resulting from uncapped uranium mines on the navajo nation.   the 638 mines were active from the 1940s into the 1980s.  fewer than 10% of the mines have been cleaned and capped.  tailings can be found in the air and ground water contaminating livestock and people.  consequently, there are higher than average rates of breast, bone, lung and liver cancer here.

owen dreams of atomic sheep

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