Street Artist Gaia just had an unexpected encounter with grief and memory after putting up one of his carrier pigeons on a fire damaged house. He was in Miami to paint a collaborative mural with 131 Projects honoring outsider artist Purvis Young at the Bakehouse studio complex.
While painting his mural he broke away to adorn the entrance of the house with a wheat-paste of his bird-in-hand, a linotype print that has appeared in neglected areas a number of times. The image, out of place and temporary, can suddenly bring a neglected place alive. Maybe it’s the juxtaposition of the elements, the symbolism of this hand made bird traditionally trained to carry and deliver messages.
The following day while he continued working on his mural, he looked across the street to see someone on the property gazing at the bird quietly, then raising her arms to take a photo. His curiosity was peaked. Later, the story took a little turn.
“While painting in the evening I was approached by two women looking for who was responsible for the new piece on the house. After admitting culpability, they divulged to me that their brother had burned to death on the premises, and that they thought the carrier pigeon in the hand was a sign of his passing,” Gaia says as he talks with some wonder about this sudden interaction with people whose lives are so connected to the building.
On the one hand, it is amazing that someone is so affected by the appearance of something we recognize as a simple piece of street art. But when you think about our sense of place, the history and memories associated with it can be powerful. Sometimes when you are in so much grief and you are crying out for solace, you look for something, anything to comfort yourself. To see this image on such a scale, on the front of a burned house where your loved one died must have seemed like a sign from God. And truthfully, who is to say that it was not a sign from God, with artist as messenger?
“Their gratitude was something unexpected,” Gaia says as relates the story with a little shock, and possibly re-consideration of the impact his work can have. Upon reflection, the Street Artist says he is satisfied with the experience meeting the two new friends and his practice of placing his temporary works in places like this, concluding that the story is “a small, but powerful case for street art.”