I recently returned from a project in Bosnia where I painted three murals: one in Sarajevo, one in East Sarajevo, and one in Mostar. The project was organized by the US Embassy along with local group Modus Adulescenti, and the idea was to celebrate 20 years of peace in the country by providing a group of young people roughly ages 18-22, drawn from the different ethnic groups in Bosnia, with the opportunity to assist me in these large murals and have a lot of fun in doing so.
While Bosnia has a lot going for it for visitors – good food, inexpensive, and friendly people – it is still a complicated place. The war thing is visible always and the segregations of ethnic groups are pretty tough to overcome, even if it’s hard to see if you don’t know what you’re looking at. Ethnic group, in this context, pretty much means “religion,” and even though Bosnia didn’t strike me as an at least very visibly religiously devout country in terms of the observance of the 3 dominant religions – Islam for Bosniaks, Catholicism for Croatians, and Eastern Orthodox Christianity for Serbs – seemingly everyone my age and older was busy fighting each other twenty years ago based on those divisions. There are still mortar holes in every third building in Bosnia.
For an American like myself with a Wikipedia-level understanding of what happened in the Balkans and why, it’s a lot to wade into. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere where the young people have more reason to distrust if not disrespect their elders. After all, imagine if your parents’ generation couldn’t get along with one another to the point of civil war? So at least in that regard, graffiti, historically a race, class, and ethnicity-blind culture due to its pseudonymous nature, is a great sign. There’s a lot of graffiti in Bosnia and I hope there will be more. I considered it my job to be a ray of graffiti sunshine.
Big, huge, happy hug and thank you to my spray team and to everyone from the Embassy, Modus Adulescenti, and all the other people who helped make this a reality!
Some English-language press on the project – there was a lot of Bosnian-language press, but I’m guessing you don’t speak it either:
I’ll have work in this enormous new show Manifest Justice in Los Angeles in May.
The piece I’m showing is called ‘Still There.’ After seeing examples of police violence again and again and again from across the United States, I couldn’t get the image of an American flag and a white flag together out of my head. It seems to run counter to patriotism to imagine the symbol of surrender having anything to do with a powerful nation in frequent military conflicts, yet surrender – peaceful, humane surrender, with the promise of humane treatment – is a tenet of justice we hope and aspire to as a nation. When that tenet goes wrong, whether by military or law enforcement, it strikes at the core of who we are as a nation.
Just look at this list of participating artists…
Aaron Hughes Aaron Sandnes Ace Bourne Albert Roman Amina Cruz Amy Elkins Andrea Bowers Annelia Hillman Anthony Young Augustino Kofi Bask Behn Samareh Ben Eine Bill Dunlap Brandan “bmike” Odums Calderon Caleb Neelon Camilo Cruz Casey Ryder Catherine Tafur Cathie Bleck Center for the Study of Political Graphics Charlie Becker Chase Erachi Chip Thomas Chris Usher Chris Yormick Chucha Marquez Cody Hudson Cryptik Crystal Clarity CultureStrike Damon Davis Damon Locks Daniel Lee Postaer Dave Kinsey DeeDee Cheriel Delfin Finley Diederick Kraaijeveld DJ Agana Elisabeth Fried Emory Douglas Eriberto Oriol Eric Fischl Eric Haze Eric Stefanski Erin McKeown Ernesto Yerena Estevan Oriol Ezequiel Penya Favianna Rodriguez Felix Jackson Jr. FLUXX Foremost Gabriel Garcia Roman Geoff McFetridge Glenn Kaino Guillermo Bert Hank Willis Thomas Hayuk Isaias Crow itsaliving Jacori Perry (Ace Bourne) James Jean Jermaine Rogers Jerome Lagarrigue Jesse Hazelip Jet Martinez Jim Darling Joel Daniel Phillips Jon Wippich Joseph Delappe Joseph Tipay Joshua Krause Jovi Schnell Joy Mckinney Joya Roy Justin Kemerling Kadir Nelson Kameelah Rasheed Karen Wippich Karmimadeebora McMillan Keena Tarrant Keisha Mrotek Keith Wagner Kiino Villand Kimou “Grotesk? Meyer Kohshin Finley Kyp Malone Larissa Marantz Larissa Marantz Las Fotos Project Leon Reid IV Lexx Valdez Lmnopi Logan Hicks Lyle Ashton Harris Maggie Wauklyn Marco Zamora Maria Max Maya Mear One Melissa Vandenberg Michael “WISE” Delahaut Michael Cummings Michael Murphy Mike Giant Miss Chief Molly Mendoza Monroe Gallery Mr. Pose Munk One Nancy Chunn Nery Gabriel Lemus Nina Chanel Nina Chanel Abney Nisha Sembi Pat Perry Patricia Pratt Patrick Martinez Ralph Ventura Rebekah Tarin Rippon Robbie Conal Robert Mickelsen Robert Russell Ryan Bubnis Saber Sage Vaughn Samantha Wall Sandow Birk Sandy Rodriguez Scotty Albrecht Shannon Crawford Sofia Enriquez Steve Alfaro Steve Lambert Stormie Mills Susan Crile Susan Crile Swoon Tatyana Fazlalizadeh Tes One Todd Gray Venice Arts
Here are a pair of images of my pieces as displayed – thank you to my friend Dave Tolmie for sending them!
This kind of came out of left field to me. Converse asked me and my longtime buddy Kenji Nakayama to work with Jeff Grantz and Christie Digital to create a projection-mapped (I had to look up what that meant) animation for the Illuminus Festival on October 25, 2014 in Boston’s South End. I am basically a very low tech person – it’s all I can do to update my dang web site, let alone code anything – but I do love to work with people who look at computers the way I look at walls and paint. The results were projected on this empty shell of a building on Harrison Ave that everyone in town knows.
Here’s my animation and then Kenji’s… these are just my handheld iphone vids, nothing pro in the least for now, but hopefully you get the idea. It was really cool. My video has some priceless townie play by play in the background.
The EMF Building is a music jam space on Brookline Street in Cambridge, right down from the Middle East. I grew up down the street from it when it was vacant for years, and since then, the neighborhood has changed quite a lot as it’s become a big money tech and science hub of the world. This was a no-money rooftop ladder job that’s bigger than it looks and my legs feel it. I can’t imagine taking this on without a personal connection to the place, but the home town thing is very real to me. This is called “The future home of where this used to be.”
At 44 feet tall and 120 feet long, this mural is probably my biggest one yet, and all the more special to me in that I got to do it in my home state of Massachusetts. It’s called “The Block Player” and inspired by watching my toddler daughter build and play. Thanks to everyone who made this possible, especially Erin and the PAWG, the Worcester Rotary Club, Converse, my magnificent assistant and buddy Jimbo, and many more.
Converse produced a 2-minute video of the process, too.