Painting Bird Ladies
A couple of weeks ago, my parents came to visit for Myla’s birthday. While they were here, we did some Austin sightseeing, and found some fun, off-the-wall places to visit…one of them being Graffiti Park–The Hope Outdoor Gallery. Hope (Helping Other People Everywhere) was started in 2011 with help from street artist Shepard Fairy (see the Obey Crew hanging artwork at the gallery launch), as a place for artists to display large-scale murals and positive messages. It’s private property, so you have to obtain a paint pass (and if you’re really geeky like me, you speak with the owner about what you plan to paint and if it’s okay).
So a couple of weeks later (and after getting the OK), we showed up that morning paints in hand, blanket ready, ice cold water on stand-by, ready to paint a small mural in a very small spot. I mostly just wanted Myla to have the experience, and I wanted to leave something little and lovely on the wall.
Well, remember that bit about getting permission? Most street artists don’t do that. People assume that if it’s outdoors, it’s open to everyone. So it goes to figure that on that morning, we were asked if we wouldn’t mind covering a very disappointing piece of “inappropriate” and most unwelcome graffiti that appeared to have been placed there just the night before. Remember that bit about “positive messages?” Maybe you can tell from our start that the piece we were covering wasn’t so much “positive” as it was just plain ol’ juvenile. Even Myla said it best: “They snuck in here to paint, and all they painted was a giant penis?” Pretty lame. But it was a good chance to explain a little bit about why stupid people do stupid things….
It was hot outside. …Okay, maybe “hot” is too simple a word. I get hot when I work out. This was HUMID. And even “humid” can’t accurately describe the feeling of sitting full-on in a human-sized preheated oven. That’s Texas. So Myla took a lot of rest breaks, while I tried to finish my part as quickly as I could.
The idea was that we would each paint a head, and then switch up and paint the body for the others’ piece. When we finished our heads, we swapped places so we could each put a mockingbird body on the others’.
By this point, our skin was melting off of our bones, because someone left the central heating on full blast in outdoor Texas, I think. That, or it’s built directly on top of the lava beds of the fiery infernos of hell itself.
In any case, we quickly finished the bodies, and I roughly filled the background with a light blue, as quickly as I could before the heat evaporated the last of the moisture in my bones and made me faint from exhaustion. It turned out okay. Not as lovely as I’d have liked it if we had a cool day in the shade, but lovely nonetheless.
And just as we were about to pack up, a frozen yogurt truck pulled up to sell his wares. I would’ve gladly given him $20 for a milkshake to cool down my kid. (Thankfully, it was only a couple of bucks.)
I think one of the most difficult things for Myla to understand is that all the work we did painting those bird ladies, all the heat and sweat we spent out there, and they might not be there next time we visit. As you can see in the photo above, those Obey posters are long-gone, despite them being quite famous works of art. And I guess that’s a good thing? Or not? It’s at least reflective of the world around us. Good things get covered up. Bad things get covered up. People come around and do their best to make the world a little better. Everything you do leaves a little footprint stamp on the world. It’s up to you if you want to be soft and deep or jagged and destructive.
As another example, the EXACT area we were painting at the Hope Gallery used to be covered just a few short weeks ago (when my parents came to visit) with a cute little (large) baby goat head. And then a crudely-drawn penis. And then our crazy bird-ladies.
But that’s life, isn’t it? That bad stuff? It didn’t go away. It’s still there–we just covered it up with something that’s hopefully a little nicer. And sometimes the good things you do get erased and covered up. Which is why you have to keep putting good things out there into the world. And keep on putting good in the world. And keep on putting good in the world….<3