(A version of this post first appeared in the August 2017 issue of The Neighbours Of Forest Hill Magazine.)
Have you ever walked or driven by street art and wondered how it all came to be? Well, in Toronto, we’re lucky to be surrounded by lots of intentional, thoughtful street art – and each installation comes with a story.
The Forest Hill Village is the home to ‘Go Swimming’, a 6 by 40 foot black and white mural behind the building at the southwest corner of Montclair and Spadina in Toronto.
The self-taught artist, James C. Jennings, and his friend were in the Village last fall, admiring the building. The owner, Lorne Rose, overheard them and the they soon began discussing how to turn the blank garage wall into a piece of art for neighbours and passersby to enjoy. The request was simple: a positive, whimsical, cartoonish piece that would make people stop, engage, and smile. And, it does just that!
Ultimately, this mural represents three things: community art, created with humour and meaning, about the world we live in today.
Explaining that ‘art comes from the sub-conscious’, Jennings created a series of intertwined stories that show how the human, animal, nature, and technology worlds work together.
For example, we see a mermaid wearing Cousteau-era scuba gear and looking into a mirror, questioning the need for an artificial breathing contraption. Does she need one (she’s a mermaid after all!), is technology weighing her down, or is there a positive aspect she can incorporate without losing her true identity?
There are many other hidden objects and messages. Take the hand of God reaching out and creating a robot instead of a human and check out the African princess being wooed by an alien. Even as worlds meld, we see that creation and love still exist. What about the hairy, happy proboscis monkey who’s sharing a tandem bicycle with a man who isn’t necessarily enjoying the ride? There’s also the octopus, one of the main characters, whose far-reaching tentacles are probing, yet inclusive. According to Jennings, whose positive energy and peaceful nature come across in the painting, we all need a sense of belonging, despite our quirkiness.
Completing the work in the early summer of 2017 was ideal. People stopped by. A neighbour supplied a metal spatula to scrape the wall, which Jennings added to a skeleton’s stash of treasures! Other changes, to characters and objects, were made as the artist experienced the wave of Village life through conversations with residents. In this way, the mural truly has become a piece of art for and about the community.
My favourite part? The cute octopus reaching for one of the eight slices of pizza with one of his eight tentacles. When I asked Jennings if this ‘number-matching’ was intentional, he said he hadn’t thought of that. But, that’s exactly the point of this mural: each of us becomes a part of this fun artwork as we interpret and think about the details in our own way.
Make sure you take the time to enjoy this unique addition to the Village with your family and friends – and look for the Toronto skyline in a flask, the Loch Ness monster, Elvis, and a sneaky monkey reaching for a banana!
Do you have any favourite street art works that you love? Does your city have a vibrant street art community? Toronto certainly does – and you can read more about how the city supports street art here.
I’d love to hear about your experience with street art!Email This Post