Two or eight years ago (time is wily) I visited Chicago and fell in love with many things (banh mi! the clock towers! how a Picasso can be a horse, a woman, and a place to sit!), but mostly with this:
Street art nearly always makes me pause, but this particular piece made me stop and feel. So many stories in her eyes. The subtle shapes providing light to her skin. That scarf. (That scarf!) Have you ever wanted to invite a painting out for coffee? (I think she would go for a macchiato, and then we would sit and talk about the latest Colson Whitehead novel. She would agree that it felt a little scattered until the final third of the book, but when everything started coming together it was like, “Yep, here we go! Colson Whitehead has done it again!”)
When I returned home, I did a little research and learned that the artist is Erik T Burke. I also learned that he visited St. Louis in 2014, allowing himself 48 hours for street art activism in response to the murder of Michael Brown. Erik was selling art on his site, so I bought a print of The Act is the Whole Point of It. It’s hanging in our dining room, and when I look at it I can hear kids playing, bottles clinking as they hit the pavement, a distant siren… Can you smell the inside of the building? I think it smells like beef stew and wet newspapers. Maybe just a slight hint of your grandma’s perfume. It’s dismal. It’s hopeful. And so were/are we.
(Image by Erik T Burke via eriktburke.com)
I kept going back to the photo of my blue lady for several weeks after returning home from Chicago, so I did what any knitter would do: I studied the photo and ordered a skein of yarn to match every color shown in the stripes of her scarf.
I’ve been working on this project off and on for the past two (or eight) years, and I love watching it grow.
(A scarf knit on circular needs can be anything you want it to be, including a badass thigh-high leg warmer.)
Back in July when Tempe and I went to Chicago, I took the scarf (still not finished) so I could get a photo of it with the painting. On our way out of town, we drove down 16th street with the plan of parking the car, grabbing a quick photo, and then hitting the road.
We traveled up and down the street a few times, but I didn’t see the painting. I saw others that I recognized, but I didn’t see Her. When I started questioning if we were in the right area, I noticed this:
It’s her ear. IT’S HER EAR, and it’s covered with graffiti. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I think it sounded something like, “Ack! NO! Damnit! Shit!”
I understand that street art is ephemeral, but I wasn’t prepared to see the woman who moved me so much (along with the rest of the mural) covered up with a gigantic MUNDO LIBRE. (And I suppose it IS a free world. But is it? (It’s not. Ask Neil Young.))
Two months have passed, and I’m still allowing myself to feel bummed out. (And, yes. There are more lofty things for which to be bummed, but I can’t really concern myself with next year’s election just yet.) AND, just because the mural is covered doesn’t give me the right to suck at photo editing. Or does it?
At least we existed at the same time.
And now I need to finish that scarf.