Location: 514 Southwest Blvd. Kansas City, MO
Title: Janelle Monaé
This mural is one of my personal favorites around the city. Fun fact: I get a daily glance at it coming home as I merge onto I-35 North. Why is it one of my favorites, you ask? Well. Let. Me. Tell. You.
Depicted in the painting is the beautiful, talented, creative, entrepreneur Janelle Monáe. She is an activist, feminist, songwriter, playwright, musician, musical actress, and Kansas City Native. She has taken Kansas City flair to NYC, Atlanta, and all over the world.
Monaé has focused her music and craft on creating Sci-fi-feminist-political albums and videos. Some of my personal favorites are from Dirty Computer, which debuted in 2018. The entire album is a dream of human and LGBTQ rights. The individual music videos are amazing, but the album video is a piece of sci-fi art. It showcases her storytelling and creative symbolism skills beautifully. I am constantly amazed by her use of fashion, styling, and hair as artistic mediums.
In addition to her musical career, she is also an accomplished film actress. Some of her most notable films include; Hidden Figures (2016), Antebellum (2020), Harriet (2019), Moonlight (2016), and Ugly Dolls the Movie (2019). Do yourself a favor and look more in-depth at Janelle Monáes' work. I hope you love it as much as I do. Anywho, back to the mural at hand.
In 2018, this piece was painted by ZuluPainter as part of the SpraySeeMo festival. ZuluPainter has created many murals all over the U.S. many of which are in their home state of Florida. They also have pieces, in Flint MI, Memphis TN. Salt Lake City UT, Denver CO, New Orleans LA, Houston TX. Las Vegas NV, and Los Angeles CA.
Zulu Painter's art encompasses brilliant use of vibrant color, linework, and beautiful depiction of faces. On Zulu Painters Instagram, their art shines through vibrant colors and explorative backgrounds. Working in a realistic illustrative style, Zulu Painter creates murals using bright colors to paint people, animals, flowers, and juxtaposing them with vivid geometric backgrounds. Something exciting about their work is how they feature people. Using non-humanistic coloring to bring the faces new life and become part of their art creates beautiful compositions.
This piece portrays a characterized Monáe. A large illustrative head is juxtaposed on a smaller body. Monaé's iconic bun is placed toward the front of her head. With the non-realistic style, the image is still very obviously Monaé based. She wears a red cape lined with quilted light blue fabric and a blue bow tie. Underneath, she wears a red and yellow gemstone at her neck, a striped black and white button-up shirt, and pseudo camouflage bottoms. At her elbows, pixilated squares transition to her arms, where she is holding up a microphone in her right hand and a white and black spotted purse in the left.
The background sets Monaé in front of a layered blue sky. An emerald city blends into the foliage and hills. A yellow pickup truck and a small blue building with columns decorate the landscape. The background imagery overlaps the building utilities blending them into the art, making them part of a functional art piece. To the left edge near the vertical center is a small plaque Zulu Painter installed. The plaque supplies a professional presentation of the artist and contact information. It is linked to an app called PixelStix, a mural tracking app. After downloading the app there were no other murals in Kansas City listed in the app.
According to ZuluPainter's Instagram account, the piece was a collaboration with Monáe. Monaé was later photographed in front of the mural spray painting her signature on the purse and the sky to the right of her head.
Since 2018, the painting has taken some damages. The black paint depicting hair has peeled in a few areas. Additional peeling along with the grout between the building's bricks can be seen in the same area and above Monaé's hair. I hope as SpraySeeMo comes back in 2021 we can see a little restoration work to keep this piece in good condition for years to come!
Overall the image is visible and wonderful. Take some time to go visit it and see the pieces surrounding it. I, for one, will be looking out for more art from ZuluPainter in KC and when I travel as well.