Excerpt from the report to Chicago Public Art Group:
SPRAY PAINT AND MURAL COLLABORATION OF
DZINE (CARLOS ROLON) AND OLIVIA GUDE, Summer 1993
Created 3 public art projects:
Still Deferred: Still Dreaming
How to Build a Brighter Future
Aren’t I a Womyn?
Aren't I a Womyn? is a spray paint and acrylic mural painted on a wall of Roberto Clemente High School at the corner of Division and Western. The piece is 10 feet high and 107 feet long. The project was co-sponsored by the Puerto Rican Cultural Center. The mural combines graffiti lettering with images inspired by texts from Sojourner Truth, Julia de Burgos, and Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz. The piece was painted by Gude and Dzine with the assistance of Brian C. Morris and 13 teen artist assistants.
OMG: I was most worried about that piece.
Dzine: Because we were so exhausted.
OMG: We were exhausted. We had already put together that spray mural collaboration for the 6 spray artists and 6 muralists in June and then we did two huge pieces. Two such burner pieces...
Dzine: ...that we didn't want our last piece to be really whack...
OMG:... to ruin our reputation.
Dzine: That was really hard. It's just so funny because I for sure thought that this was going to be our weakest one. I was tired. I was worried that we didn't have any more wind left in us.
OMG: Remember, I said that I was concerned because I thought it was such a conventional, graffiti shaped wall and you said, "Ho, ho. Now you have to deal with my kind of wall." I didn't want you to think I was disrespecting your medium. What I was talking about was that the graffiti style has evolved on these long horizontal surfaces, so consequently the pieces have a very long horizontal form and all the dynamism which takes place happens within that form, within the letters or characters which fill up the space. Murals in general tend to be different in terms of their use of space. I think one of the things which we did which was really cool with the wild style and other styles of lettering was to do pieces where the letters shot up vertically or diagonally and they became spatially involved with the surrounding wall in a whole new way.
So I was worried about this piece because I thought that we would end up having a character, letters, a character, letters, a character, letters, and no integration of the spray and brush work. It didn't make things any easier when the folks at the Puerto Rican Cultural Center came up with this really complex idea for a theme.
Dzine: Yeah, they wanted a mural on the theme of women and they wanted us to deal with poetry. They wanted us to turn this poem into a story visually.
OMG: They wanted us to feature Julia de Burgos, a noted Puerto Rican woman poet; Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, also known as Decima Musa, the greatest poet of the 1700s in all the Spanish speaking countries; and also the African American liberation leader Sojourner Truth.
And for me, I didn't want to get involved in doing a picture in which there are these really strong, beautiful women and everybody looks at them and says "Oh, look, here's a strong, beautiful woman in a mural."
Dzine: Too typical.
OMG: I was really excited by our decision not to show the women at all, but instead the eyes that gaze back out at the viewer.
Dzine: The hip hop community is pretty male chauvinist. So is rap music. I don't know what the eyes meant to you, but to me they meant...I went to a nightclub one time and there was a gay male there and he was staring at me and it was really getting on my nerves.
OMG: He was objectifying you...
Dzine: Because he was just sitting there staring at me. At first, I didn't want to say anything and then I thought "I'm going to go up to this dude and I'm going to knock him out cold if he keeps this up." After a minute there I sat back and I thought, "You know, now I know how a woman feels." And not even just like that because women go to nightclubs and get their asses grabbed.
OMG: And they don't have the advantage of probably being able to beat the guy up.
Dzine: I thought about it and I felt pretty bad. To me the eyes of the wall depict a woman looking back out at the man saying, "Yeah, now it's my turn."
OMG: But not looking salaciously, but not being the object, being the subject, being the one who gets to look. If you think about it, what's the other main "art" that you see out in the world? It's advertising. All these pictures of women's bodies being used to sell stuff. So I was glad we stayed away from depicting the woman's body.
The other thing I like about the piece is the way that the word "womyn" is spelled. Of course, that spelling comes from the women's movement; women saying we are going to create a term for women which isn't subsumed under men, but I think it's so funny that we did the altered spelling in wild style letters because people often look at graffiti and whine "What does that say? What are those letters? I can't even read that wild style lettering!" So changing the spelling mixes up everybody. People who are used to reading hip hop lettering aren't used to seeing the word "womyn" and other people keep working on what that actually says.
Dzine: I like the fact that we incorporated the axe, the symbol of a matriarchal, goddess oriented culture in the lettering.
OMG: Yes, I think a lot of people are really going to like that. You know, the thing I really love about this mural is the giant eye with a finger putting in a blue contact. When have you ever seen in a mural someone putting a contact in their eye? Inscribed on the eyelid is a quote from a Julia de Burgos poem, "You are the frigid doll of social falsehood." The blue contact carries the symbol outside of just the social falsehood of a stilted femininity and refers to a false femininity that puts all this pressure on people to look Anglo.
Dzine: I felt really good because this was the first time I have ever used on a wall the drip technique I use on canvasses that I learned in Europe. I think it pulled off really well...doing a bunch of these sections which were just drips in spray paint--exploding the spray can onto the wall instead of just spraying the paint on there. First of all the whole piece was really conceptual, but I also think we really pushed some limits technically.
OMG: Actually, this is the part when we should shout out to the 13 youth artists from the Puerto Rican Cultural Center for carefully masking off all those detailed sections so that we could do the drips and it wouldn't get into the wrong spots.
Those drips have a real wild look to them. It was interesting for me to deal with this incredibly rich drip surface--challenging myself to do brush painting that has that same vividness and intensity. It pushed me into a whole other level and a whole other color key.
Dzine: Right, I love those pyramids up there. They're really nice. They are this glowing burgundy. I like the eye within the eye too. You're a goddess.
OMG: Goddess, goddess, right, that's going to be my tag.
Dzine: And we need to give a shout out to Marcos Vilar of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center who did a lot of running around for us .
OMG: Right, especially that was a good idea he had to put the mulch at the base of the wall to keep the mud off when there are heavy rains.
Dzine: I'm remembering how disappointed you were when you first saw that wall. It was so funny... You were "Only 10 feet high? Okay, I guess so if this is the only wall we have to do." And I thought, " Okay, good now welcome to my pad."
OMG: Well, you were being obnoxious.
Dzine: I had to be. I think it was the best piece we did all summer.
OMG: It's funny as much as I am glad that the summer is over because we worked hard and I was just worn out and also we had a lot of rain that really bummed us out and screwed up our schedule...still can you imagine continuing on? Can you
imagine things that we didn't do? Now that we've done those three collaborations can you say, "Wow, if there was a spray mural piece again I could imagine other possibilities that we didn't begin to explore."
Dzine: I would say maybe something that graffiti writers do--putting visuals inside of letters. I think it would be good if we could do this really incredible visual inside the letters. If I'd do some lettering and you'd go in there with a brush and totally go nuts inside the lettering.
OMG: Yes, sometimes I've seen graffiti lettering with what looks like little fragments of images, what could be little pictures or designs. I could imagine having tiny little images (tiny by mural scale--6 to 18 inches high), fragments of images within the letters--almost like a collage. Mix it up. As much as we mixed it up spatially, we didn't really blend inch by inch the acrylic and spray paint. I think we could do more about that. And I wanted to try painting an image, adding a whole web of stencils to the surface and then overspraying another image.
Also, we did this double layering of letters, but I really think a triple layering of letters could be amazing. I'd love to have big scale, small scale, and medium scale, all layered up. Actually, I think I'm going to do something like that in a piece I'm doing in a school this winter. It'll be good way to come up with a sketch for a bigger piece. So maybe you could come and spray on that and we could look into a whole other level of collaboration.
Dzine: Remember, we were pretty worried when we found out that we were born within four days of each other. That's scary. Two Leos working together.
OMG: You know, one of the things I really loved about working with you? If one of us got all tense or excited, you would be at me "RA RA RA!" and I'd be at you "RA RA RA!" and then we wouldn't have to go through recriminations--"You got over excited. I can't deal with that." You have a similar level of passion. That was nice.
Dzine: Yeah, that was pretty nice.