Reflection, Representation, and “14 Movements”
This post is part of our Public Art Network 2017 Year in Review blog salon.
Artist Mat Tomezsko’s 2016 project with Mural Arts Philadelphia, 14 Movements: A Symphony in Color and Words, started out as a beautification request from the 2016 Democratic National Convention Host Committee, but it became so much more. Tomezsko created a wash of color along the median of Broad Street, stretching out languidly over 14 city blocks, a full mile-long mural marking a major transit corridor. At the northern end of the mural, the colors point to City Hall, and at the southern end, to Washington Avenue and South Philadelphia, where many immigrant communities are situated.
14 Movements created opportunities for reflection on the diversity of experience in Philadelphia, the very real, rich, inner lives that unfold every day in simple journeys down the street.
“Leave my name with the patina of pursuance / the heat of remembrance / the oil of influence / the sheen of redemption,” writes poet Yolanda Wisher, at the time the Poet Laureate of Philadelphia. She was commissioned to write the poem “My Name” as part of 14 Movements, echoing the visual repetition of the painted median in the repeated phrase “leave my name.” Both works of art deal with movement across time and space, and together, they make a powerful statement about representation and visibility, especially in the context of the 2016 DNC in Philadelphia. Who is seen? Who is heard? Who feels represented by their government? 14 Movements created opportunities for reflection on the diversity of experience in Philadelphia, the very real, rich, inner lives that unfold every day in simple journeys down the street.
“Leave my name like a seed for my grandbabies to eat / Listen in my death for that seed / sprouting legs, legs of languages / a new life / legacy / Limber love across time and space / A leaving / A leavening of personal justice,” Wisher’s poem continues. Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods, a city of many histories both known and unknown, and both the poem and the mural reflect that generative sensibility—the feeling that meaning and stories are burgeoning everywhere, if we just give them our attention and allow them to unfold.
14 Movements was sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.