Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Artist Michael Owen used to live in Orlando, going to Dr Phillips high school. He moved to Baltimore to attend art school and has lived there ever since, his family is still in Orlando and he visits often. In Baltimore he executed a series of 20 murals, all with the theme of love. After the tragic shootings at Pulse he wanted to return to Orlando to share this theme. Finding a location was difficult, but Einstein Bagels right across the street from Pulse decided this was a great idea that might help in Orlando's healing process.
Michael used large rollers to paint. He also executes more refined detail using house paint brushes. "They are like the filberts I use when painting on a smaller scale." he said. The lift helps him paint the details high on the wall. LOVE is spelled out in silhouette using human hands. I first met Michael at After Orlando, a one night theater collaboration that featured 20 plans that addressed feelings and emotions after the Pulse shooting. Originally, he intended to have 49 orange blossom floating in space. After Orlando inspired him to paint more of the stems and leaves for the blooms. The outpouring of community support is symbolized in this more solid base.
We talked d bit about a common friend, Cole Nesmith, it turns out that Cole is the first person to ever buy a piece of Michael's art. People would stop to talk to the artist and he was always happy to tell then his story. One woman walking past the mural had on a deep purple blouse. "you match.' he said. "I what?" she replied. "You match the mural." Sure enough her deep purple blouse matched the purple hands on the mural. "Purple is the color of royalty." he informed her. Several I cars honked their approval and some people wanted to shoot photos with their phones. "People just react" he told me as we talked abort what it is like to create art in public. The positive responses he has had from everyone in Orlando has been unprecedented.
From interviews with Pulse shooting survivors, I know that the Einstein Bagel's parking lot had been used as a triage site where the injured and dead had been taken to get them any from the gun fire. Survivors used their shirts and socks to plug bullet holes in an attempt to stop the bleeding. Blood had stained the pavement. Now splashes of purple spattered paint dripped from the well to the pavement. Once the scene of horrible carnage, the parking lot is becoming a beacon of hope and love.
The drips are all part of Michael' spontaneous process. He uses the paint as if is were watercolor being used by a giant. He would sweep the roller in an arch creating elegant sweeping lines to the purple foliage. He asked me how far Sam Flat was and I gave him directions. The Sun was getting close to the horizon, and he needed more supplies. He needs some spray paint to because he wants to add delicate gradations to the flowers. Each blossom is unique having it's own shape and form.
People in Orlando are still trying to process the horrors of June 12. People grieve in their own ways. Creating art is an artist's attempt to come to terms with that evening. In that way, Michael a I have much in common. I hope his mural does help in the healing for those who visit the pulse memorial across the street. Perhaps some will cross the street and leave memorial items at the base of the mural. Michael has invested his one money and gofundme money to bring this message of love to Orlando.
I heard a skid and then the crunching of plastic hitting plastic. there had been a fender bender at the stop light. The drivers got out and exchanged insurance information. Life still rushed past even as art blooms. You can't rush a labor of love.