By: Christina Schucker
If your Instagram has not been blowing up with photos from Murals in the Market then you must not be from around here. Or Spain, or New Zealand, or France, or Canada, or Italy, or California, or Hawaii, or New York, or Chicago, or Australia, or DC, or Philadelphia, or Raleigh, or Austria. Frankly, the only way you could not have seen pictures from Murals in the Market is if you don’t have internet access. Which, for the record, is no excuse. My mom (who still does not understand that you don’t have to sign all your texts) has even seen pictures of these gorgeous murals all over her Facebook feed. Having absolutely no idea where to begin to view all 45+ pieces of artwork I just pick a direction and start walking…
I walk up on Detroit artist Michelle Tauguay taking a break from painting to step back and study her work.
“This is my first mural…I’m letting the piece tell me what to do”, she says, reflectively gazing upon her work.
Showcasing her signature style of suggestively posed women in bathing suits rendered boldly in teals and pinks. Her subjects walk the line between provocative and lighthearted playfulness. This piece is of a girl crouched down, her face beckoning the viewer to come closer, with her arm extended holding a ball. There is one spot, twenty feet diagonally from the corner, which Michelle calls the optimal place to view her piece. It’s where all the lines line up and the proportions come together. While some artists would be frustrated by the difficult location and structural impediments, Michelle dove in head first to embrace the wall’s uniqueness.
“I wanted to play with the corner and the space… I love optical illusions and magic tricks”, says the girl wearing contrasting striped prints.
I turn the corner and my eye immediately alights upon a bright royal blue wall. It is nearly identical to the color of the sky, and were it not for the telltale glass block windows it would appear as if giant flowers were growing out of Orleans Ave. The artist, Detroit-based Ouizi, sits on the curb in front of her work, exhausted after a full day of painting in the sun. I ask her what she hopes people feel when they look at her work.
“I hope that they feel energized to make this city better for themselves and others and I hope that it gives them a better outlook and pride in this city”, Ouizi says.
It is a perfect mural for Eastern Market, a place where thousands of people gather weekly to buy hanging pots and beds of flowers. It’s a place where suburbanites can come and see firsthand the change that is happening in Detroit. Serene and dreamy, it beckons passersby to stop and reflect. It has a calming effect that provides an interesting counterpoint to the hustle and bustle of the market. Graceful, yet robust, the flowers are powerfully rendered in yellows, oranges and reds. A realistic contrast to their whimsical white stems and leaves.
Excited to see more of her work, I head across Gratiot to check out her contribution on Monica Canilao’s humongous piece. At 100 feet wide, Monica says she had no choice but to call in for reinforcements to collaborate with to help tell her story of the scarcity of resources and community strength. An Oakland based artist, Monica considers Detroit a second home. For this mural she collaborated with artists Ouizi, Nick Mann, Pat Perry and Ben Wolf. It is a message about the lack of access people have to vital resources like water, food and shelter. This resonates with the thousands of Detroiters who risk getting their water shut off because they can’t afford the bill, or who must wait hours for a bus that may never come. However, there is ultimately hope resonating out of the mural’s core. The themes of growth and abundance, of everyone coming together to grow stronger, are symbolized by the large blooming pot in the center. It calls on the viewers to work together to create a luscious, thriving community. By collaborating with three other artists Monica extends this metaphor further. The different artists’ styles are unique, but fit together to tell the larger story. What is most striking about this mural is the incredible amount of detail spread across the huge wall. You can stare at it for hours and still find something new. There are so many colors, shapes, clever uses of motion and perspective that come together as a cohesive whole.
As Monica says, “When skills are put into a collective whole – that is how every community can exist”.
Public art is the most egalitarian art form that exists. The only barrier of entry is physically getting to the location. Even if you have no idea what the artist is trying to say you can still have a visceral reaction, which is just as significant. With so many themes and styles to choose from, everyone can now have a piece of art somewhere in Eastern Market that speaks to them. It is the ultimate expression of community.