Wow, do people love doors!
At my shows this summer, there were so many people who declared their love of doors… and then quickly added “I know it’s strange and maybe I’m an oddball”. Actually the people who said nothing about doors were in the small minority.
The doors they were referring to were my Mini pieces of Italian and French doors, mostly rustic with some type of greenery around them. Charming doors. Romantic doors. Historical doors that piqued the curiosity of who might have passed through them over time.
Yet, I’ve been long interested in another type of door. But rather than charming and romantic, it’s usually urban and often controversial – doors marked with graffiti. They pique my curiosity with many questions too – what’s the motivation behind making these marks, who are these people, and as an artist I wonder about the techniques. I’ve been exposed to a lot of it in Toronto. However, graffiti is quite polarizing, especially the type called “tagging” (words, signatures) – to some it’s vandalism and to others it’s creative, political or social expression. And in Rome, where I found these next doors, this heated debate rages on, even as Rome’s relationship to graffiti goes back to the days of the Roman Empire.
I’ve wanted to paint some of these doors for months now, from photos I’ve taken over the years. And this summer, my husband took many more door photos when he visited the Trastevere neighbourhood. So the universe was telling me it was time. I’ve chosen 3 of our photos to make some new Mini’s doors – all with a similar colour palette and some type of upper lunette/window. And as an experiment, I painted them first without any of the graffiti and scanned them. I wanted to see how I felt about them “before and after”. The “Before” version:
Then, I painted on the tagging graffiti with a mixture of gouache added to (or painted over) a thick opaque white paint and sometimes with a white ink pen.
The “Before and After” side by side:
In researching Rome’s graffiti, I came across some phrases from journalist-blogger Amanda Ruggeri that helped me articulate how I feel about these pieces – “the old palaces and ancient ruins can make the city feel more like a living museum” rather than “an organic metropolis”. I arrived in Rome in 2005 ready for the pretty calendar version of Rome, and the graffiti quickly snapped me out of this Disney dream, reminding me it’s also a big city with lots of big city issues and it’s very much alive in the present. That’s what the Before and After said to me.
I’m curious what you feel and think! What are your impressions and thoughts as you see these doors, before and after?