“I spray the sky fast. Eyes ahead and behind. Looking for cops. Looking for anyone I don’t want to be here. Paint sails and the things that kick in my head scream from can to brick. See this, see this. See me emptied onto a wall.” – Cath Crowley
Envision an idea, an emotion, or an image. Proceed with an infallible sketch. Draw the linings, connect them dot to dot, shade the markings and gloss them in. Finalize with a myriad of texture, hue, tone and flair. That is your art — your manifestation of personal character and your remarkable approach to self-expression! As I walked past the graffiti-engraved wall in Pilsen this weekend, I resonated with such thought that art is a true reflection of one’s outlook on life and ideas and perceptions are brought to life via multiple shapes, forms, colors, and inscriptions. The neighborhood itself is filled with a unique cultural background that’s as colorful and scintillating as the drawings on the wall, which is livened by the history behind multiple ethnic groups that established and edified what is now Chicago’s “Little Mexico”.
Along the Neo-Bohemian Baroque architectures on 18th street west of Halsted, remnants of Czech inhabitants in the early 19th century still echo down the streets. What used to be lumber mills, stockyards and garment factories are now laden with commercial buildings that retain such Bohemian flair when immigrants from West Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic) settled along 18th street. Though the original “At the City of Plzen” restaurant is no longer present in Pilsen, the establishment of Mexican communities around 1970 brought in a generous supply of delectable cuisines from the land of the shaking earth. My favorite restaurant is Nuevo Leon; along with receiving bottomless chips and salsa (they just keep coming!), the little dining gem offers mouth-watering chicken fajitas with corn/flour tortillas and tacos filled to the rim with carne asada (Tacos de Sabinas is recommended — ribeye steak, grilled onions, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, and refried beans topped with chihuahua cheese. Food lovers, rejoice in your galore!)
If all that Mexican grub and historical flair is not enticing enough for a trip to Pilsen, how about the vast array of graffiti drawn, inked, and sprayed along railroad tracks on 16th street? From cartoon drawings to tribal caricatures to inspirational wall quotes, the concrete edifice for what used to be motor engines running on rust-covered tracks remain coated with captivating images that transcend time and space. To shed the spotlight on the vibrant background, I kept my outfit to a minimum with a knitted sweater (whose minuscule fiber coatings come in multiple hues) and a pair of pastel green shorts. To bode well with the androgynous vibe, I completed the outfit with a pair of black wedge sneakers and my favorite cross body bag of the season, my Phillip Lim Pashli in the color mandarin!
As I walked by the graffiti drawings and gazed at the intricate designs laden on the stone walls, I felt like time stood still as the stories behind the images unfold before me. Quietly, deliberately, and without doubt, I sat down and imagined myself in that time and era when thoughts were instilled … emotions were relayed … and painting strokes were made. As I resonated with the “Create A Fresh Path” writing on the wall, I felt invigorated, livened and renewed. Very much like the world is my white, uninhibited canvas, I felt ready to paint it colorful — in shades of purple, blue, red and yellow for new adventures to come and new stories to tell 🙂
Credits: Jason J Photography http://www.jason-j-photography.com/