July 17, 2018

New mural in Belgium: 'Mural for My Father'

'Mural for My Father' is the title of my most recent mural in Europe, commissioned by the City of Antwerp for Antwerpen Barok 2018, and the Baroque Murals project curated by Yvon Tordoir, part of Antwerp’s yearlong celebration of Baroque art and culture. This piece is an interpretation of a depiction of Saint Joseph from the mid-1600s by Flemish painter Michaelina Wautier (this painting is currently on display in an exhibition of her work at the MAS museum in Antwerp).

Belgium is a special piece for me for a number of reasons. The first time I came to Belgium was in 2003 to participate in a group show titled Young Primitives with the nearby Groeningemuseum in Brugge, where a handful of other aerosol/graffiti artists and myself painted pieces around the old city that were inspired by the museum’s collection of work by Flemish Primitive painters. This was a hugely impactful project for me and made me fall in love with Belgium, so I was excited to return to Flanders for another project with a similar theme. This is also a continuation of my finding inspiration in the work of often underrepresented women painters of the past—including my ‘Phoenix Goddess’ mural painted in 2004 in downtown Phoenix, which was inspired by an 1826 painting by Belgian artist Elisa de Gamond.

'Mural for My Father' is located in the heart of Antwerp, between the Rubens Museum and the 14th-century Cathedral of Our Lady, and this area is filled with small statues of religious figures (mostly Madonnas) affixed to buildings overlooking street corners. I was inspired and impressed by these, seeing them not only as a beautiful form of public art but indicative of an exuberant cultural embrace of a Mother archetype--seemingly everywhere you go in Old Antwerp you are watched over by symbols of maternal benevolence. 
Considering the abundance of religious imagery in this place it felt appropriate to paint Saint Joseph, who is the patron saint of Belgium, as well as of fathers, expectant mothers, families, workers, and immigrants. He is traditionally portrayed in Western art holding lilies, which signify purity, though for many they might have more funerary associations. In the current context of declining labor rights, growing xenophobia, and migration crises around the world, I think even this fairly traditional representation of this patron saint of workers and immigrants holding lilies can take on an extra weight. However my primary intent with this piece was a little bit more personal. I've painted so many symbolist pieces honoring mothers, this might be my first large scale work honoring fathers, and this one is modeled after mine. I have been immensely fortunate to have a kind, loving, intelligent, hard-working father to exemplify for me an ideal of what a man and father can be. This mural was produced with great love as a dedication to him, as well as good fathers everywhere. (The title is a nod to one of his favorite songs, Horace Silver's 'Song for My Father' from 1965.)

This project was made possible thanks to Stad AntwerpenAntwerpen Kunstenstad, Yvon 'Rise' Tordoir + Aerosol Kings, Lieselotte De Beer, and Dré Demet. Additional thanks to the many kind people of Antwerp who showed support and appreciation, including the mystery donor who left that impressive bag of snacks for me!
Photos are my own except (from the top) #3: Manuela Geypen, #8:Jasper Léonard


Joel James said...

So, so fantastic. Blessed!

I purchased an original from you a number of years back and would love to hear your thoughts on reframing it. Hopefully our paths cross again!


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Unknown said...

I am glad to hear that you have a connection to Belgium. They have much love for the arts and a rich history on display in such historic cities like Brugge and Antwerp. Another great piece Mac ! Cheers !

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