It is uncommon to see large scale children's art on the street as open and as freely playful as these two imaginative murals, and it gave me real joy to see these paintings hung, albeit a bit haphazardly, on this otherwise dreary industrial wall. Both paintings are lively, illustrating active life in a brightly colored world, but neither includes humans. Theirs is an animal world. At first, I thought, of course that make's sense. We were, after all, around the corner from the SPCA, but none of the animals depicted in these paintings are animals ordinarily seen at the SPCA.
I am made as happy by these animals in flight as I am made uneasy by the more stylized mural to the right, with its disturbing message neatly scrolled across a bright blue background, decorated with blood red roses, a medieval sword and a skull, missing its bottom jaw. Dead men don't talk. Courage defined as A brave arm makes a short sword long.
I love the boldness of the tattoo imagery and color, the roses and the precisely drawn snake, but I distrust the linking of courage to weaponry. In this town, on these streets where violence is more common than not, we need a different definition of courage, one that lies outside the arena of battle, away from war and conflict. Swords are meant for killing, and there is too much killing on Oakland streets. Why not think about courage as knowing fear but acting peaceably, refusing the violence that normally accompanies fear? It takes great courage, for example, to stand for peace in a world dedicated to war, even more courage to seek peaceful solution when conflict is more easily and profitably marketed on TV, in video games, on the silver screen. The greatest bravery is not perhaps to pick up the sword and dive into battle with powerful enemies hoping to emerge 'victorious' but to set down the sword and to meet the aggression of the same powerful enemies armed only with human arms, open in ready embrace, offering love in place of violence. There is great courage in kindness . . . Sing, raise up the voice instead of the sword. Make art, pick up a paintbrush, lay lines down on canvas. Write, invent worlds never seen, record those that are here. The pen is mightier than the sword.