Murals are an infinite, lasting way to express the joyful pain of love and unity. (Unity is not a concept that should have any gray areas, but then again, “I don’t see color” is something that makes no sense and shouldn’t be an idea.) Love and unity are emotions that can take a toll and walk a fine line between melancholy and exuberance. Murals are an expression of both at the same time.
Black artists in Milwaukee are plentiful. Currently, there is a GoFundMe that aims to raise funds to paint more murals and support the endeavors of local black artists. There’s a mural going up outside of the Riverwest Filling Station, that unassuming corner restaurant on the stretch of Keefe, the avenue that mainlines all the side streets in Riverwest. Still not completed, it shows a pinkish-purple horizon with a clouded sun and the faces of Breonna Taylor, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, and Atatiana Jefferson. Three local artists have undertaken the task, who all have separate but unique styles.
Marlena Eanes paints recognizable faces in a shadowy, hardline style that makes a statement. Eanes’ creations make you appreciate subtle brushstrokes and take you down rabbit holes of conversations about anything. Anna Rose Menako does two-dimensional art in the way of jewelry and wearable art, but also draws impeccable figures that look like they were yanked out of an anatomy book and have the versatility of Combat Manuals. Symphony Swan has a minimalist approach to very complex ideas that illustrates the depth of a people in a comprehensive manner. All of these methodologies come together in this project and create a harmony that makes you quietly appreciate the weight of the subject, while at the same time urging you to take out your phone and snap a pic for later.
The mural is not complete, but it’s charging headlong into the annals of city art. When finished, it will be more than a report of current events. It will also be a guide, a vehicle for a lesson.