Saturday, February 17, 2007

Beauty in a forgotten place


Back alley art
London, Ontario, February 2007

I've written about London's murals previously (see here). I don't quite know why there are so many of them in our burg, but I'm glad that folks have taken the time to paint them. They brighten our world and force us to think about our own contributions to its beauty. Or at least they should.

I particularly love our murals - and I say "our" because, frankly, public art really is a collective thing - because they're often found in otherwise forgotten, forlorn places: Parking lots, loading zones, alleys, anywhere you would find a sad-looking concrete-block wall.

And so it was as I walked past this alley less than a block away from my office. I was doing my best to keep my fingers warm in the -30C chill. The wind cut through my coat as I thought how depressing this environment was. Everything looked gray, featureless, bleak.

Then I spotted this colorful landscape. And I was once again able to see colors, to feel some warmth. A thin layer of paint on a forgettable surface had managed to transform my mood.

To the unknown artists who shared their vision in a decidedly unconventional place, thank you.

Your turn: Can public displays of art improve our well-being? Can they improve your well-being?

36 comments:

Kat said...

I would say if it is tastefully done then yes, who would not prefer to look at a colourful or even black and white picture/artwork than a concrete wall, or a fence zoned for construction zone. We are living in a world where our natural greenery and natural screnery is being replaced with dull grey concrete, we need colour we need visuals, reminders of what once was, to make us appreciate, otherwise we forget, same goes about the whole smiling at strangers, nod of recognition, makes you feel human

sorry rambled there but your picture intrigued me

Bob-kat said...

It definitely beats random graffiti and tags. I usually like murals if they are well done.
As ever, Carmi you 'apint' a lovely picture with your words that go with your photo superbly.

BTW - we both went on Michele's at the same time and you leap frogged me! I guess that means that you owe me a visit! :-) If you like that is.

talj said...

I agree with bob-kat above, murals like the one you have pictured are so beautiful to look at and much nicer than graffiti. I wish that over here in the UK we were more accepting of 'street art' rather than labelling it all with the same name - graffiti!

I love the way you write and leave the reader thinking about your subject and how it impacts on their lives!

Jessica said...

I'm in agreement too..I don't like grafitti (in London there's a lot of it) but murals are really something else if they are thought out and well done.

It reminds me of the book thing- I'm not sure what it's a called, but a stranger leaves a book he or she has finished reading on a bench or somewhere, anywhere; just for the next person to come along and pick up and read. I love that idea, it's quite romantic! I would love the surprise of finding a book somewhere, when I least expected it.

I saw a beautiful mural in London recently- it was a bitterly cold day, with the rain coming down heavy and the wind hurting my face. I was rushing through the streets to get out of the rain and really not enjoying myself. I turned a corner and just happened to look up at a building and saw this stunning mural of a sunset scene. I was so surprised, and that was the nicest thing about it, that it had been so unexpected. When I got to the cafe I couldn't stop thinking about what I had seen...who had painted it, and why? What were they thinking while they did it? Was it somewhere they had been and missed now? Or somewhere that they wanted to go?
I love it when things leave me wondering...like many of your pictures do. Thanks for sharing this, Carmi.

panthergirl said...

I love public murals in the city. I'm a big fan of trompe l'oil (sp?) as well, and love to see that when it's well done.

Here via michele.

craziequeen said...

We don't get murals here as much as grafitti - but I have to say, some of those street artists are absolutely brilliant...

I love turning a corner and seeing some bright colourful public art.

We have a 'burb railway station in Bristol where the whole wall is painted with people, reflecting the cosmopolitan nature of the area. Every time I see that wall, I see something new.

Thank you for that colourful blast this cold grey foggy day in the UK....

cq

Anna said...

Yes, I think they can Carmi...art is subjective so I may not like everything but it on the whole art makes my life better...

Azgreeneyes said...

They definitely make me feel happier!

And as for that specific mural, I have to admit that, at first glance,I wondered where you had traveled to, and then I noticed the window. It's a great piece of public art. Wish we had some around here!

Leanne said...

We had a few inches of snowfall this week, and I do not like winter. Blech. I was out shoveling, and it was important to me that one of the first things I cleared the snow away from was the mural of flowers I'd painted last summer on our front walk bricks.

Cheered me right up. Bonus, I'm the only house in the area with flowers in full bloom in my front yard. ;)

Jill said...

How neat!

utenzi said...

Public displays of art--as long as we're not talking about Flashers here--definitely help our well-being, Carmi. The mural you photographed is very nice and far more attractive then just some boring brick wall. I like how the painter did it so as to make the window blend in to the painting as appearing to be just another building.

Michele sent me over to admire the art and cringe at the thought of -30 weather. Brrr!

Elaine said...

Sometimes I like it, and sometimes not. It depends on the building, the artwork, and the area it is in. The one in your shot is neat, the way they incorporated the window to be one of the buildings.

Melyssa said...

Awesome! It took me a minute to see that the window was a window and not another building! beautiful work. Thanks for sharing.

Pearl said...

Yes, some color or summer, even painted or photographed gives me a lift.

Thanks for the boost.

slf1954 said...

Murals are big in my ometown as well. Here is a link tosome.
http://dolphin.upenn.edu/~davidtoc/murals/murals.html

Lori Schmidt (LoriProPhoto) said...

Hi Carmi

Thanks for visiting my blog the past few days, I have been an emotional mess LOL but your comments really cheered me up, I havent had the time to go through a lot of your posts yet but the ones that I have read are great, I can see that writing is your passion and the photos are unique.

I am really looking forward to reading more.

On the subject of wall art, I think it is great if it is done well, I have lived in London England and can say that the graffiti there is out of control, I would much rather see something like what you have photographed, what a wonderful find on a bleak day.

I wish I had my negatives from South Africa, there were some amazing murals there in Johannesburg that I took photos of, makes me wonder if they are still there.

Thanks again for your kind words and I look forward to visiting here again soon.

Lori

indigo said...

If all public art were like that, yes...it would definitely improve our well-being, and the cityscape.

But the more popular type - graffiti - with gang names and crude phrases have no place there. I like and appreciate the style it employs, but not when its offensive and dimishes the surroundings.

Thanks for popping by...long time no 'see'. *waves*

Wordnerd said...

Absolutely! This is really incredible. Are you familiar with "the broken window mentality" in the inner city? If there's one broken window, people will keep breaking more windows and tearing up the neighborhood. But if you put a fresh coat of paint up there, it keeps people from trashing the area. Looks like the people in London have the right idea.

Awareness said...

yes! and Yes! Especially beauties like this one. It reminds me of primitive folk art, which is found in creviced inlets along the shores of the Maritimes..lots of folk artists around the south shore of NS. Do you know Maud Lewis? This mural reminds me of her stuff, though I don't think she painted a mural on the outside of a building.

When the cold winds blow and the grey winter seems to take over our souls........bright colourful art is wonderful medicine.

enjoy your evening Carmi.

Mr. Althouse said...

Absolutely. Although sometimes it is deemed "graffiti," beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I guess even a stark brick wall could be beauty to some. Not me though.

Mike

Ty said...

Thank you so much for your wonderful comment on my blog. If I could I would give you a big hug so a cyber hug will have to do ((hugs)).

Blond Girl said...

Hi Carmi. I would say yes, under certain circumstances. Art that is out for the general public should, i feel, be encouraging of family, beauty and respect. But each person is their own judge of that criteria, so you're never going to make everyone happy, are you? Nope. One persons grafitti is another person's encouragement. Oh well!

Faye Pekas said...

Yes, a mural is uplifting to me. It makes me feel good to know someone spent the time to make something nice for others to see. Its like a gift to the passerby.

This one is bright and cheery.

Faye Pekas said...

...and I love how they worked the window into the design :)

Ash said...

Beautiful!
Yes, i think they do!

Josy said...

I enjoy any unexpected art. Murals, actually, tend to annoy me... so often, they're these pretentious sappy landscapes in highly-trafficked areas. But the stop sign transformed into a "STOB" sign makes me snicker every time I pass it, and I think a mural in a back alley (of all places!) would certainly take me by surprise and bring a grin to my face.

Just a passer-by's two cents. :)

AB said...

I love urban art of this nature - it definitely does cheer up an otherwise featureless concrete block wall. Commissioned art of this type enhances the mood of the passer-by, and brightens often dreary spaces. Colour and vision is important, and in an ever-urbanizing (is that even a word? LOL) world we need this visual stimulation very much. This is SO much better than graffiti "tagging" which all to often blights the urban landscape.

Sorry for my ramble, but this photo is great! :)

Oya said...

No matter what, colors make our life better...

Jayne said...

I love seeing art like this in unexpected places. I usually think of the whimsy involved in trying to figure out how they'll get around windows and doors etc. Art like this always has a "fun factor" oozing from it and always makes me smile.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Whoa. Carmi, I thought that was real at first! TOTAL Trompe L'oeil!

Yes, murals like this can totally improve our life. ANYthing that makes us smile can improve our lives.

Glad you keep coming back to West of Mars. Stop in Monday afternoon/evening for the contest winenrs! (yes, you can get in on the next one. It'll be over the summer and I'm plotting it out now)

Nikki-ann said...

The kind of "graffiti" shown there is beautiful. If it brightens up our day, then why not? I quite like murals.

beth said...

I applaud the creativity and optimism of the artist who chooses to paint so vividly in such an environment. Very cool, and undoubtedly it makes a difference.

Art matters. It resonates within each one of us - subjectively, and yet with the ability to connect us. It is so very amazing and freeing to express ourselves as artists, to say or paint or sing that for which others can't quite find the words or pictures or songs. The surprise factor makes it that much sweeter.

I live in rural environment every day, and I marvel at the beauty of a dazzling blue sky, or the stark emptiness of bare trees, or the oozing depth of a yard full of mud..

I like how you prompt us to think. Glad you stopped by and introduced yourself...

Rainbow dreams said...

Art almost always ehances my life, I love seeing new things hidden in places I wouldn't expect them - people seeing beauty hidden in the ordinary, in the tattered and dirty places.
Art should be for everyone, not just left in galleries.

bluemountainmama said...

i love how it's painted around the window- to make the window look like one of the buildings. they did these type of murals in the town where we used to live...and the art depicted the area in it's "hey-day" in the 40's. it DOES brighten things up, in my opinion.

srp said...

Graffiti is one thing but these murals are so artistic and refreshing. How can you help but be warmed by the rich color... especially when it is soooo cold.

Here from Michele.

Chad Oneil said...

Very cool.