Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A Mural Presentation in Edgewood.

Tonight I went to the Edgewood community to present my mural proposal. I can't say exactly what I expected to find there. I guess I figured it would be a politician, a gallery owner and a handful of neighborhood notables. Nope. If I were to have tried to conjure an audience least likely to be sympatico with my vision, I would have surely fallen short of what awaited me. It would have been the very first failure of imagination on my part during this entire process. Because I didn't realize that when I got to the Edgewood Borough building I wouldn't know a single soul. I also didn't know that I'd be making my presentation to the Borough Council- eleven (or so) very conservatively dressed people appearing to be anxiously awaiting the serious business of their bimonthly meeting.

When everyone was present they called the gathering to order, and then everyone rose to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. This is a ritual I am oddly familiar with, so instead of unsettling me further, it gave me a sense of inevitability. Mercilessly I didn't have to sit through the whole proceedings, because the developer of the project kicked off the meeting by introducing the concept, and the proposals of the artists who wouldn't be showing up to explain their work. I knew there was going to be trouble as soon as he opened up the floor for questions from the panel. This was a very pragmatically-oriented council. They wanted to know about coatings for the work, which would ostensibly be used to keep them graffitti-free. What type of polyurethane covering was going to be employed? They were also concerned that the kids who would be working on the project would be safe from the reckless driving of PAT drivers. All practical considerations aside, they yielded the floor to teh "kooks". Luckily the other artist (who was actually present) went first. Unluckily for me, he knew ahead of time that he was going to be submitting his piece to the Edgewood neighborhood, and had painted an actual scene from the community.

Then it was showtime. I stepped up to the lecturn, introduced myself, and unveiled my 18 x 24" illustration board. I felt it was important to mention that I had not been told about any specific area for which my piece would be considered. I was resigned to my fate and launched into the spiel I have intermittently delivered to friends and onlookers over the past month or so. I figured there was nothing else I could do, but forge on ahead without reservation. I spoke about Meadowcroft and sacred Mayan symbology. I talked about our industrial past and the difficulty in envisioning the future. I even went ahead and mentioned human consciousness and stages of development. The response was a row of faces full of flat affect. I continued with all of that 2012 stuff. I tried not to read their thoughts as I heard myself sounding like a new age psychotic. And finally I made sure to point out that none of it had to be taken literally- that it was all an allegory for sustainability. That was my main concession. Besides that, I did get one laugh when I explained that the Mayan temple on the Hill in my picture was my failed proposal for a new arena. Never underestimate the power and universality of a sporting reference in Pittsburgh.

I thanked them for having us, and reclaimed my seat. We were able to make our escape shortly. As soon as I was outside I sought reassurance from my fellow artists. I asked them how crazy I sounded. They tried to console me by saying I sounded like "an artist". This was cold comfort. One (or maybe two) of the submissions will be chosen for the project. The council itself will make a recommendation, and then representaives from the community will have a chance to vote for their favorites. I wonder if it is a good or bad thing that they won't hear my conceptualization. In a way I think it's appropriate that the piece will have to stand or fall without explanation. That's the way most people will experience the mural if my work is chosen. I won't be there to talk about it. Maybe folks will like the colorful alien, and appreciate the mystery of the obscure references. Or perhaps not. I don't flatter myself with favorable odds. But at least I'll have more time to travel if I am not chosen!

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