Philadelphia is a city of murals, thanks in large part to the vision of Mural Arts Philadelphia and its founder, Jane Golden. Her crusade to fight graffiti started in the 80s and over the decades has grown into a national model for community and public art.
Her organization has also attracted colossal talents and helped create dazzling beauties like this untitled one by uber-cool portraitist Amy Sherald. If Sherald’s style of black and white with color looks familiar, it may be because you’ve seen the official portrait of Michelle Obama she was commissioned to paint, which hangs at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington.
I’ve read that Sherald’s paintings are best seen in person, and that holds true for me, even on this huge scale. I saw images of the work in progress in my Instagram feed, where the bright blue and yellow popped, but it was only in person that I understood its true power.
The mural is five stories high! Seeing its subject, a young Philadelphia student, in the context of the skyline, is a revelation! This everyday young woman is a tower of power among the city’s skyscrapers, an elegant marvel claiming her rightful place in her city. Oh, that gaze.
I hope you like her as much as I do. There are other excellent murals in the vicinity. Check out Mural Arts’ website and interactive map, and take a public art safari. Though this may be my favorite of all of them.