QRST and His “Patron”

The Personal Story is the Story.

Often people like to refer to what’s happening on the streets today like it’s a homogenized “scene” in which a number of actors are somehow coordinated and in agreement, acting in concert with a predetermined speed and direction to deliberately affect Street Art’s evolution. While you may spot certain themes and influences that are common within the ever mutating scene, it’s important to know that for an individual street artist, usually the whole experience boils down to the personal story, and everything else that emanates from it.

Street Artist QRST recently completed and installed this piece in New Orleans and it’s topic and symbolism could not possibly be more personally meaningful.

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QRST “Patron” Detail (photo © QRST)

His largest piece to date,”Patron” is a tribute to QRST’s father, a biology professor who studied the behavior of bees and wasps and whom he lost to cancer when the artist was a teenager. With this piece QRST attempts to examine “the manner in which a parent, and a father specifically, shapes a person and their view of the world”. He also points out how the memories that we have of the loved ones who have left us can change and fade with time and often all we have left are symbols that helps us connect with them. When QRST talks about this hand painted wheat paste as tribute and catharsis, you can tell that he thinks a lot about his father, his view of the world, and the symbols that remain as he makes his own marks upon it.

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QRST “Patron” Detail (photo © QRST)

Here’s how he talks about it;

“I guess I am ‘Canonizing’ him in my mind with symbols that I associate with him. The person that he actually was evaporates over the course of time until he’s just a symbol, in a manner very similar to a saint in Catholicism. New Orleans felt like the perfect place for him with its brand of Catholicism, saint devotion, Caribbean and West African religious aspects all coming together in a strange and magic place with it’s own dark and long held traditions, ceremonies and celebrations. It felt like the ideal, polytheist environment to place my own devotional piece.”

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QRST “Patron” Detail (photo © QRST)

“As to the specific iconography, most everything here is deliberate. There are a number of references to sex and virility, the bees being obvious (though also a personal symbol for me; he was a biology professor that specifically studied the behavior of bees and wasps); his hand gesture similar to a sexual reference though he’s actual spelling P and A in sign language, both the first two letters of the word “patron” and also spelling “pa”; his fingers are covered in pollen (which again references bees, but also the male half of a haploid reproductive system). He’s  approximately seven and a half feet tall with the advantage of being about two feet off of the ground to begin with – this also relates to a fatherly figure in general.

He’s standing in a pile of books as a symbol of learning, teaching, and science, but also as a reference to St Albert the Great, the patron saint of science (and also teaching to some extent) who is generally shown with a book or tome. The books with bees and wasps on the covers are self explanatory at this point I suppose. Some aspect of their latin names are included in several instances, which again relates to both science and the canonizing aspects together. “Sceintia vulgaris” is a really poor way to write “common knowledge” in Latin (which works doubly well, as it’s close enough to get the point across without being pedantic) which is again a reference to teaching, or making knowledge less secret or esoteric. This also relates to my entire understanding of the influence that he had on me: science and reason and nature being the benevolent and humbling magic of the universe; The magnificence of the world around us, the cause to celebrate and be reverential, not because someone else claims secret knowledge of an angry deity telling me what to do and what not to do. The book with the hammer and saw is a reference to Joseph, the patron saint of fatherhood, the tree is a reference to family and ancestory.

I don’t think I’ve ever installed anything this large before. All tolled he’s about 9 or 10 feet tall, so the very top is about 11 or 12 feet off of the ground. Thankfully I had two eager assistants, but I still managed to almost fall off of the foot stool we were using resulting in the minor damage to the ‘Q’ in the banner and a tiny bit of damage to one of the books. He feels already well worn in, like he’s been there for some time, which I quite like. Overall I’m fairly pleased. ~ QRST

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