The Writing on the Wall

Posted on March 27, 2015

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By Lees Romano

A few weeks ago, some dear friends of mine and I took advantage of the beautiful weather (its hard to believe that existed) and ventured through Cooper-Young to capture an important characteristic of the area; street murals. You’ve driven past them, parked next to them, and walked by them, but have you really seen them? They’re beautiful—not only in appearance, but in their understated presence and messages as well. Let’s just take a moment to appreciate the artists behind these wonderful projects and explore how these murals help make Midtown, Memphis.

We saw the first mural on our tour completely by accident -these things will get you! Parking behind Urban Outfitters turned out to be a brilliant idea, location aside. To the left of the parking lot (facing the Cooper-Young Trestle Gateway, another great piece of street art) is a giant bird-like figure covering a blue-gray wall. The eerie, naturalistic bust and tail feathers of this bird contrast so sharply with the geometric body. At first glance, the body of the bird looks like a bunch of rectangles and triangles, but look closely. The cubist-like house that makes up the body of the bird makes this mural a…birdhouse. Oh Midtown, you do understand me.

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The next mural, more of a sculpture than a mural really, but bear with me, is the “I Love You” wall underneath the Gateway. As simple as it is, this lovely work of art captures exactly what someone needs to hear, reminds you of your love for Cooper-Young, Midtown, or Memphis (because you know you adore it all), and is just so dang sweet. I love you, Memphis. Also, what a clever trick of the artist to draw your eyes upward to look at the plaque explaining the Gateway, although I didn’t pause to read it for fear of missing the next mural. Like they’re going anywhere…

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After a while, our stumble-upon game turned into a determined search for murals we had seen before. I remembered driving past a mural at the beginning of the year, but the tricky thing with these murals is that after finding them once by pure accident, it is difficult to intentionally find them a second time. Driving down Central, away from East Parkway, I was determined to remember the cross street that led to this particular green mural. Of course I could not remember the name, so I just turned down one that started with an “H,” and what do you know, I found it. My experience with any of these murals; follow the train tracks overpasses and the murals are bound to pop up. This mural exudes pride for Midtown. After all, Midtown is Memphis. The vibrant green and in-your-face lettering make this mural larger than life. This mural is so large, in fact, that specific angles must be used in order to capture the entire body in one shot. Across the road from the mantra, “38104” is painted in the same style. I sincerely apologize for not remembering the name of this street, but appreciate the surprise when you find this one. It’s worth the stumble.

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1424892628The murals in Midtown are not the only pieces of street art in Midtown, nor are they by any means the only murals in Memphis. This city has beautiful, thought provoking, and, in a nutshell, cool art waiting to be discovered. I’m nowhere near finished with these amazing works, and if you haven’t yet taken the time to look for them, go and do. You’ll be so glad you did.

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Posted in: Arts