Uptown mural offers powerful statement on Syrian, Afghan wars

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Chicago Sun-Times Murals and Mosaics
Thanks for subscribing to the Murals and Mosaics newsletter from the Chicago Sun-Times! Each week we showcase some of the Chicago area’s most interesting pieces of public art – as well as the stories behind them. Today’s edition was compiled by Sun-Times reporter Robert Herguth. Follow him on Twitter here and on Instagram here. Reach out to murals@suntimes.com with tips and comments.
Good afternoon!

What do Britney Spears songs have to do with an Uptown mural that speaks to the horrors of violence in Afghanistan and the Middle East?
Nothing at first blush.
But artist David Najib Kasir, who created the mural last summer as part of the Clifton Avenue Street Art Gallery, uses Spears’ music to explain the colors and imagery in his painting.
Painting in brilliant pastel florals, the subject matter is incredibly dark: war in Syria and Afghanistan.
The images depict a father holding the lifeless body of his daughter — a reference to the countless young lives lost in the violence.
The four-paneled mural by artist artist David Najib Kasir. (Provided)
The four-paneled mural by artist artist David Najib Kasir. (Provided)
A closer look at the artist David Najib Kasir's mural. (Alec Karam / Sun-Times)
A closer look at the artist David Najib Kasir's mural. (Alec Karam / Sun-Times)
Despite the heavy theme, Kasir opted to paint light colors and flowers to draw people in. He likens it to “candy-sounding” music, the kind that Spears might’ve aimed for in the early 2000s, upbeat in tone but with lyrics that punch deep.
David Najib Kasir grew up in the Chicago area but now lives in Milwaukee. (Provided)
David Najib Kasir grew up in the Chicago area but now lives in Milwaukee. (Provided)
“Britney Spears, what she’s doing, she wants you to like it right away. She’s drawing you in by the sound,” Kasir says.
“That’s kind of what I’m doing,” he adds, joking: “Only, I’m not as pretty as Britney Spears.”
The mural, titled “Ratio of Daughter in Less Percentages,“ is also painted to look like a mosaic – in other words, as if it’s made from pieces of tile. Kinda cool.
UPTOWN PEARLS
It’s an outdoor cluster of murals near the Red Line’s Wilson L stop. And by cluster, we mean (at last count) more than 70 “large-scale” paintings.
Gems really. We’ve featured a number of them over the years.
Below is a panoramic view of one of them called “Beyond Human Dreams of Loveliness” by the artist who goes by Left Handed Wave.
(Pat Nabong / Sun-Times)
(Pat Nabong / Sun-Times)
Here’s a closer look at part of it:
(Pat Nabong / Sun-Times)
(Pat Nabong / Sun-Times)
The backstory on the mural: When the Uptown Theatre opened in 1925, the owners compared the architecture to an old Spanish castle and called it “beyond human dreams of loveliness.”
That phrase was borrowed by the artist for his mural, which spans 150 feet along the exterior of Harry S Truman College.
The piece spells out that phrase, with each of the 29 letters displayed in a font inspired by an establishment — past or present — central to the North Side neighborhood (with a nod to neighboring Edgewater, too).
Here’s more artwork in that corridor:
"If You Only Knew" by Steven Teller. (Uptown United)
"If You Only Knew" by Steven Teller. (Uptown United)
“Uptown Alley Cat,” a mosaic by Bachor. (Uptown United)
“Uptown Alley Cat,” a mosaic by Bachor. (Uptown United)
Rodney Duran's "Street Queen." (Alec Karam / Sun-Times)
Rodney Duran's "Street Queen." (Alec Karam / Sun-Times)
Anthony Lewellen's "Garden Hope." (Alec Karam / Sun-Times)
Anthony Lewellen's "Garden Hope." (Alec Karam / Sun-Times)
"All Together Now" by Molly Z. (Alec Karam / Sun-Times)
"All Together Now" by Molly Z. (Alec Karam / Sun-Times)
ART CONTEST, REVISITED
A few weeks back we announced the winners of the Sun-Times’ latest student art contest.
They were fantastic. And there were so many really good entries that we also named a dozen “honorable mentions” and highlighted them online and in the newspaper.
Here’s what they looked like:
Click here to read more about the runners-up, and click here to read about the winning entries and the contest.
Click here to listen to a WBEZ radio story about the project.
MISSING MURALS
Chicago artist Damon Lamar Reed is continuing his important mural project centered on missing Black women and girls.
There’s an event Sunday in Rogers Park for his latest mural, and the flier with the details is below.
Reed is painting images of the missing people, with the aim of raising awareness, hoping to jar loose information that could help locate them, lighting a fire under investigators and showing families that their missing loved ones matter.
“A lot of people don’t know that this number of women are missing, and I care about all people missing, but it’s more Black women missing and they get found at a shorter rate,” Reed told us. “The more that people talk about it, maybe then the police will say, ‘OK, maybe we need to reopen this case.’”
Using art rather than a photocopied flier helps get the word out “in a different and creative way” that hopefully “draws people in,” Reed says.
More murals are in the works, as is a documentary.
Click here and here and here and here for more information.
FINALLY ...
If you want a copy of our two-year murals/mosaics anniversary magazine, click here, copies are just $4.99 apiece.
Our “Chicago-pedia” magazines also include great artwork (accompanying Chicago-centric definitions and terminology).
They’re worth a look, and the latest volume can be bought here for just $5.
Got a mural or other piece of public art you’d like us to look into? Send an email to murals@suntimes.com and we’ll check it out.
Wanna share with others how to subscribe to this free weekly email newsletter? Here’s the link to sign up.
Have a great day, and a great weekend.
Robert Herguth, Sun-Times
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Robert Herguth

A weekly look at the murals, mosaics and public art in Chicago's neighborhoods, and the stories behind them.

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