American artist Gaia has had a busy year! In his own words, here’s a recap of some of his biggest murals from 2015…
1 – What Are the Aesthetics of Reinvestment, Gainesville
Finished piece for @352walls in#Gainesville Florida. Entitled ‘What Are the Aesthetics of Reinvestment’ the mural seeks to develop a portrait of downtown Gainesville and locate the theoretical framework behind New Urbanism and its influence upon gentrification. The piece begins with a portrait of the one and only Jane Jacobs with an adjacent picture of a tenement typical of New York’s Lower East Side. It continues with an image of the newly constructed @ufcontinuum paired with a church from Porters, a historically black neighborhood on the south side of downtown. Finally the piece is concluded with an old photo of Union Academy, the second accredited all African American high school in Florida, and the school’s founder A Quinn Jones. Lastly there is a person on their laptop drinking coffee in the corner.
Continuing from the genesis of New Urbanism, beginning at the top, is the state flower, the orange blossom, that would change the fate of the sunshine state. Farther down is a portrait of #osceolapainted by #georgecatlin which was suggested by @1_3_1 . The Seminole figure gives a historical context to the violence of displacement. Finally the piece is concluded with a portion of the #UnionStreetCondos and the lifestyle preferences of newcomers, a jogger.
Special thank you to Faye Williams for providing an insightful local perspective that let me hit the nail on the head with this one.
2 – Native, Jersey City.
Portrait of Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange and a portrait of a man intended to represent the Lenape people native to the Delaware river watershed, Ackingsah-sack Wetlands, Lower Hudson Valley and Long Island. Frederick Henry was the sovereign Prince of Orange and stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel from 1625 to 1647. During his reign the Dutch West India Company established the settlement of New Amsterdam which would become New York after English occupation. In the foreground is a late breakfast still life by Willem Claeszoon Heda, with a background of flowers. To the right and left are symbols of investment in real estate: a new glistening, glass tower representative of the condo and rental construction in Jersey City’s Downtown, and an old historic brownstone. Thanks to the Jersey City Mural Program for facilitating and funding the wall.
3 – Endangered Harlem, 153rd and Amsterdam.
In the composition are four endangered species of migratory birds: the black and white warbler, the magnolia warbler, the scarlet tanager and the tree swallow. Above in the top right corner is a portrait of Audubon as a young man, to the bottom right of the composition is a photo by Russell Lee taken in the South Side of Chicago in 1941 during the swell of the second great migration, to the bottom left is the white hand of James Lancaster, who led the East India Company’s first fleet in 1600, resting on a globe. Three patterns of migration parallel to one another.
But the greatest irony of it all is raising ecological awareness whilst the people of Harlem are endangered of significant gentrification.
Thank you @audubonsociety for the wall. And a special thanks to @avigitler of @gitlerand , @markjannot and @cassieopiafor your coordination #audubonmuralproject
4 – ‘Pronkstilleven’ organized by@opositivefest in Kingston NY on the former Stuyvesant hotel renovated by RUPCO. Photo credit @milfodd Andy Milford.
Pronkstilleven is Dutch for ornate or ostentatious still life. Building on a series of works that began with @savage_habbit in Jersey City, the still life becomes a foreground for historical figures. In this piece, featured prominently in top of the composition are the portraits of John Vanderlyn, American neoclassicist painter, and Sojourner Truth, abolitionist and women’s rights activist
From RUPCO’s website: The Stuyvesant offers forty one bedroom units for senior and/or disabled adults. Twelve of the forty units have been designated for homeless housing. Sixteen units are allocated for clients of Gateway Supported Housing.
5 – Phenotype, for the#ModelNeighborhoodInitiative in Newark’s Southward on Clinton Avenue. The mural uses the teachings of Noble Drew Ali as a conceptual framework since one of the last remaining Moorish Holy Temple of Science in Newark is located down the block on 701 Clinton Avenue. Two portraits by Catalan orientalist painter Jose Tapiro (1836-1913) of Santon Street Preacher (male) and a ‘Tangerine Girl’ (female) represent the Moors of the Maghreb of Berber descent. Noble Drew Ali taught that African American people were of Moorish roots from North and West Africa and were thus Islamic by faith. Behind the two portraits, the milky white arm of Eve reaches for the forbidden fruit (painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1528) referencing the genesis of humanity but also of racial revisionism by Europeans. To the right are portraits of two Leopards of the genus ‘Panthera’. When a leopard is melanistic they are known as ‘Black Panthers’. The two animals are of the same species but their adaptation to environment sets them physically apart. A dominant gene entirely expressed in the phenotype, is responsible for the excessive melanin in the Leopard. The hieroglyphs below the two animals spell the ancient name of Egypt ‘kmt’, which is thought to refer to the Black Nile Delta earth. Noble Drew Ali, otherwise known as the Egyptian Adept, would lay the foundation for the Nation of Islam and black consciousness in the the United States. Thank you to Keith Hamilton for facilitating and organizing this project.