The images, sounds, moments and vibrations of the 2020 uprisings in the wake of the unjust police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless others were pivotal and groundbreaking. Moments like the one we had in 2020 call for artists and creators to put these historical events into perspective, using their talents and skills to create meaning from the chaos and confusion that we all experienced collectively last summer.
One such art form that has roots and precedence in the sphere of urban political expression is the world of public art; graffiti and murals send simple yet loaded messages to the masses through highly trafficked areas and concentrated, captivating spaces. Beyond their practical uses, these art forms make use of the very social environment that cultivate political outcomes to create the art itself. The canvas becomes the statement.
Just this May, a mobile mural titled “Black Girl Magic” was presented to the public in Frederick by Dominican-born artist Lusmerlin along with a host of other local organizations. Lusmerlin, an abstract painter who specializes in pastels, could be described as an enigmatic artist. Her paintings cover everything from vague cityscapes adorned with bright colors and eccentric shapes, to striking paintings of goldfishes and other beautiful yet often overlooked creatures. She says of herself that as a child she always knew she’d be a painter because art was the way she communicated with the world (although she’s also a chemical engineer!). And in 2020, like most of us, Lesmerlin must have found herself thinking about what the moment meant for herself, for Black life in Frederick and in America. As most creators do she fell back on her old pastime of painting to communicate her ideas. The result? A gorgeous mural in Downtown Frederick and a Black artist collective committed to more projects like it to boot.
“Black Girl Magic” is a triumphant vision of a Black girl in a luscious green field with her arms held high to the sky. Flowers are growing out of her afro as if to signify that she herself is (Black) life. The symbols of harmony and rhythm are present with flowing piano keys and a Djembe drum. There’s even a pot of soup labeled ‘soul’ for the viewer to digest. The colors are bright and radiate with life energy, giving the impression that this piece is indeed intended to impact the viewer as if it is a spell, giving precious life energy to those in need.
‘Black Girl Magic’ debuted at Lesmerlin’s art exhibition at the Cowork space in downtown Frederick on May 1st. The event was also hosted by Benefactor Events and a group named ‘Black Lives Mural – Frederick’. Lusmerlin is also listed as the Creative Director of the Black Lives Mural – Frederick, which describes itself as a “growing Black artist collective on a mission to install Black art across Frederick.”
2020 brought more than just a moment of instability and rage. It brought Black creators together in both thought and action. It’s not only important for Black artists to create, but to organize themselves as well. In that way, Lusmerlin’s “Black Girl Magic” is not only a beacon of hope for Frederick; it is a promise of more to come. Follow Lusmerlin here.
Written by Mate Muhammad
Photo Credit: Lusmerlin