Rhapsody in Burque

Meaning in the Mundane

I consider myself lucky to live in a neighborhood where massive decorated brick walls exist within walking distance. Even alleyways are canvases for hungry artists here.
It’s a hot one, late June, those few days before the summer solstice when that fiery orb in the sky insists on staying up longer and longer past its bedtime. An inevitable urge to stay up with it takes over and with keys and camera in hand I head for the door. There’s something enchanting about casting long shadows on the ground and feeling temperatures significantly drop once the sun dips below the horizon. There’s so much to see before neon signs and electric lights take over.

I gaze admiringly at a realistic painting of a bird adorning the back of one of Nob Hill’s many food joints. A pang of nostalgia zips through me as I recall painting a mural in my high school’s fine arts hallway years ago. Standing on a ladder, losing track of time sometimes seemed more appealing to me than showing off an actual finished work. I wonder what thoughts run through the minds of Albuquerque’s painters while they press on with buckets and brushes and vivid imaginations.

Progressions are fascinating. There’s a mural with a girl reaching towards colorful chickens that isn’t quite finished yet. Watching the process of simple outline to incomprehensible patches of color to a completed work is breathtaking. The walls breathe with life as images are joined with gritty, faceless bricks and stucco, creating meaning in the mundane.

The chicken mural looks complete to me but who knows what direction the artists might go. The thing about art forms is that the artist eventually becomes a tool for their creation to speak for itself, instead of the other way around. Like writing a story where the characters seem to have minds of their own, painting has the power to overtake outside controlling forces. Next time I walk by I wouldn’t be surprised to see those chickens climbing off the wall and taking off down the road.

When I started college at UNM it was impossible not to notice the giant shark in business attire visible from my dorm room parking lot. The gaping mouth and agonized hands have witnessed restaurants come and go over the years, and I’m always glad when I see the next business that rolls around choosing to keep that timeless shark alive.

It’s not hard to make your own mural tour in Nob Hill. Every turn reveals a building doubling as an easel. The less you know about the artists, the more fun it is to speculate what stories might live beneath the paint.

A stroll through the lively district is a reminder that the stunning artistry and energetic walls create a little haven of color and originality somewhere you might not expect. You’d be surprised with how valuable some crumbling buildings suddenly seem after spending time admiring their complex and colorful faces. In the words of J.R.R. Tolkien, “All that is gold does not glitter.”