As a kiwi with two veteran grandparents, I was eager and happy to be apart of this project. I was approached by the Browns Bay RSA to help with the renovation of an old ugly wall, at the end of their car park. We decided on the image of ANZAC hero, Simpson and his donkey. He was famous for saving countless lives on the back of a donkey under heavy enemy fire, becoming a symbol for sacrifice, hope and bravery in the war. This image was combined with Poppy flowers, a symbol of remembrance of the lives lost. This project was fulfilling on so many levels. Getting to interact with the return serviceman at the RSA, I learnt so much about the wars and sacrifices they had made for my country. I was happy to give them and the community a visual reminder of the service those brave men made. After seeing the unveiling at the 2012 ANZAC service, along with personal responses I received from people who saw the article in the New Zealand herald, some of whom served with my grandfather, showed me how murals can be so much more than just a image on a wall. This would have to be one of my fondest art experiences and the emotions expressed around its creation, is one of the many reasons why I feel public art should be embraced by more artist and local governments.
Murals have always been something that I have loved to do within my art practice. Unlike other works there not usually bought and sold, and don't always have the longest life span. But they are apart of there surroundings and become the landscape. They offer large and exciting surfaces that by location already create a dialog and give me so much to work from. While living and traveling around the world, I have relished opportunities to leave something behind in the countries that I have had the joy of exploring. Some have paid for my accommodation or food and drinks, others have been charity works to light up issues or pay respect. Wherever you are in the world, I am always looking for public walls for charitys, buisnesses, or even private walls to paint, so please contact me with ideas! I travel a lot so can add your idea into my travel plans.
This project was one I did while studying at Montclair state University, I was approached by my painting mentor Julie Heffernan to do a mural in the Montclair township, to replace a existing mural that was torn down by the super storm "Sandy". I saw this as a great chance to interact with the community in was living in. The theme was local heroes and we chose the organization Partners for Women and Justice, a non-profit which provides free legal assistance to victimized women and their children. The combined realistic and abstracted imagery of the mural depicts the theme of "Family Violence" and how it is often couched in a veil of silence. Situated in a "dark alley" the site of the work I felt helped this idea, which I know is a global issue that needs light shed on it.
Since I left School, I have visited many friends student apartments or (flats) as we say in NZ. They have been great places to experiment with murals, a great way to liven up a living room.
Laken whitecliffe © 2019