In the documentary Bomb It!, there’s a great interview scene featuring Brazilian Niña. When a man on the street asks her why she paints, she replies, “Look at those two girls. They are like prostitutes. How is my work more aggressive than that? In Brazil, children are not included in anything that is happening. Schools don’t take kids to art galleries to see an exhibition, to the theatre, or to music shows. I decided to do it for them, to take it from them and give it back to them.”
Sofia Maldonado’s Frog Hollow piece exemplifies this community spirit. Last summer, she and a few local interns spent six weeks transforming the side of Park Street ’s Pelican Tattoo parlor into a vibrant mural. “I was invited by Real Art Ways for their Real Public summer project,” she explains. “Director Kristina Newman-Scott and coordinator Erin Roos spoke to me and we discussed giving some workshops. However, the timing of the project was no good. The kids were in summer camp and the logistics got complicated.”
In addition to the timing, zoning regulations got in the way. “The day I arrived in Connecticut , I got the news that the building was an historic site and could not be painted,” she recalls. “I started brainstorming different ideas and came up with the wood panels. This medium gave the mural a circus kind of look.”
The moveable wooden cutouts generated attention in the neighborhood. “The wooden cut-out female characters all have ,” she says, “so I took them to the nail salon before the installation. This was a fun part of the project. The ladies decorated my Latina characters with long fancy nails, tattoos, and rhinestones. It was a beautiful community collaboration because I got to incorporate the nail art culture into my mural. I love recognizing the local art of the communities I work in.”
The ladies weren’t the only people who liked the mural. “The whole community was really impressed with it,” she smiles, “and when I put the Puerto Rican flag in the hands of one character, they were even more proud!” Part of Maldonado’s connection with Hartford stems from the parallels between Park Street and home. “ Park Street reminds me of Puerto Rico !” she exclaims. “It’s a hardcore neighborhood with a lot to give. There are strong female conflicts and, in a way, my mural captures that attitude. I’m working forward to returning and becoming more active in the community.”
Frog Hollow residents may be surprised that a artist painted the mural, but Maldonado has been in the game for a long time. “I’ve been painting murals since my high school years,” she insists. In fact, I used to paint with my graffiti brothers back in Puerto Rico almost every weekend. Now in PR, there is much more tagging but not too many big productions. I just feel like the new generation doesn’t understand what it takes to get up. You got to sweat it, not just tag a few times around the city when you’re drunk! I hope my work inspires the younger ladies. If you love it and take it seriously, you will see a personal evolution.”
Thanks, Sofia! For more info, check out her blog. I'm off to the last cross country meet of the year and then it's GREs tomorrow. Blargh. Send me cool pictures to look at? Thanks.