I just returned to Brooklyn after 4 days in Miami painting my first mural. I call the piece “Big Bang Boom.” It’s about how a new group of creative, kind, loving people seemed to have exploded into my life. This happened on cue with an epiphany:
“The art I create can serve a purpose higher than myself.”
So, when I was offered the opportunity to paint a wall in Little River, Miami - a low-income town who will see an art community migrate 3 miles north from Wynwood - I felt the “Big Bang Boom” concept was timely and appropriate. I thought crowd-funding was the right move. This gave people the opportunity to be a part of planting this message "Create. Love." on that wall.
I was surprised, and very grateful, that my funding goal was satisfied within 48 hours. (I thought it would take months, if it would even get funded at all.) I felt the love from family, friends and people I didn’t even know. Some thought the mural was a good cause and others wanted to support me and see my art business get out of park. I sent thank you after thank you. And by the time I was packed for my trip I had zero stress. With money issues out of the way I could just go down and paint.
The weeks prior, I watched hours of videos of street artists painting murals all over the world. I now had some heroes in this field. My favorite by far was el Seed, the ‘calligraffiti’ artist who blends historic Arabic calligraphy with the modern art of graffiti. He did a mural in Cairo which spans 50 different buildings - truly a masterwork. I watched people free-hand as well as stencil. I watched tutorials on spray paints and people testing out various sized spray can tips. I reached out to a few Brooklyn-based street artists (who surprisingly remembered me from my gallery shows) for advice, vendors for materials and contacts in Miami. I also put the word out on Facebook that I was coming down and I got lucky when Jodi Goldman, who I haven’t seen since high school, responded.
I prepped by re-sizing my original sketch in Photoshop and making a grid - each inch equaled a foot. I printed out a small section, and realized how complicated cutting a stencil for a 28’x18’ mural would be. It would have to be free-hand, with a grid system to keep me honest with sizes and placement. But, the print outs allowed me to see how thick my calligraphy lines needed to be, scaled up to the size of that wall. As if she knew, S. gave me three beautiful brushes as a “mural gift” that were the perfect sizes. “She knows my lines!” I thought with an un-wipeable smile.
Now, my very artistic son J. wanted to come down and help me paint. And I really wanted him with me, but when I typed “Little River,” to check out the area, Google automatically added the the most common search term: “Little River, Miami… CRIME.” Hmmm. Probably not the best place for my 9 year old. It was really sad to leave him behind but I had to think of it as the same as a business trip. There will be others. S. arranged for her brother and mother to watch the kids so she could come down for 2 days.
A couple of days before my flight I began to worry that I had no contacts there. I didn’t know the owner of the wall. And Bryan Lahr and Joe Risolia - the guys who offered the wall, were out-of-pocket, deep in Ultra-fest, a huge music festival where Joe curated the live art and Bryan was one of the artists. A last minute phone call from Bryan eased my mind a bit, but thoughts still ran through my mind of getting arrested.
I flew Delta on Friday, March 31st. An 8:30pm flight would get me down just before midnight. It was pouring out and I was done with my day job earlier than expected. I thought it would be a good idea to leave at 5pm from midtown. It took over 2 hours in traffic to get to JFK and I was glad I left when I did. I still had a lot of time. But my mom called me to tell me that my flight was delayed until midnight. I decided that nothing would bring me down. I was too excited. Too happy. If I was going to get in at 3am, so be it. It would all work out fine. A friendly pilot told me to go to a customer service kiosk and see if there are cancellations on another flight. But by the look of the ominous weather, nothing was going out. I waited patiently, happily, in line at the kiosk. Not only could you see and hear rain pummel the window behind the desk, there was a TV monitor over the agent’s head that showed a large yellow mass cover the path between NewYork and Florida. Everyone seemed so annoyed. But somehow, I was relaxed. The easy-does-it grace and style of my Grandpa George engulfed me, protected me from doubt, despair and darkness. And a very sweet agent got me on a flight that left five minutes later. I landed in Ft. Lauderdale instead of West Palm Beach and took an hour taxi north to my parents house, where they, along with my visiting brother and sister-in-law, were waiting up for me at 1am.
I sat up looking at the spray paints I had delivered from Art Primo and charging cameras and GoPros for a three day time lapse.
The next morning, my mom took me to Enterprise where I rented a minivan. We then went to Hone Depot to buy some bucket paints and extra brushes and rollers for the background. Then, back to her house to grab the spray paints, my gear and a couple of ladders I borrowed from their local contractor (who adores my parents and would do anything for them). The 18 foot extension ladder barely fit with the passenger seat all the way up, but in it went and I drove down an hour to Miami.
(To be continued)