I’m a niche writer. I don’t see eye-to-eye with the mainstream media, and that’s okay: I’m happy to go my own quirky way, even in a professional capacity. I’m fortunate to write about subjects that I truly love: dead writers, literary culture, weird short fiction and, of course, classic movies. I’ve been writing about the latter for a decade but, over those years, my focus has narrowed: I now write mostly on silent cinema. Oh, my beloved!
My home city has many amazing, memorable murals (hello, half-upside-down American Gothic!). My favourite-which I discovered a year ago as my mom was scouting out new apartments in this downtown neighborhood-is in the parking lot of a law school. It was so unexpected that I sucked in my breath before letting out a loud squeal. I may have jumped up and down but this is where the memory becomes foggy. Behold:
Greta Garbo and John Gilbert, locked in a lovers’ embrace. In a law school parking lot. In 2012. Take a few seconds to let that sink in, if need be. It’s a momentary trip back to 1927.
Although Garbo was transcendent, and therefore remains highly watchable, Gilbert is number one on my list of Greatest Silent Movie Stars. I love him. I’d been meaning to take photographs of this mural for a year, but something kept getting in my way: namely Dame Time. I’m always running out of it on visits home, as family comes first. This visit, however, was different. I’ve been researching and re-watching Gilbert movies for months, as I am writing a major piece on the actor and his films. Incentive, met.
I’m a passionate believer in, and proponent of, public art. It simultaneously adorns and educates; it is a boon for a city and its citizens. It sets people to thinking and talking. It promotes civic pride whilst opening up a discussion on the nature and place of art in society. Art is damn important: the more we have of it, the more we want it. The more we want it, the better off we are.
This fantastic mural is much more than the sum of its (pretty amazing) parts. True, it memorializes an important, mostly lost art and entertainment form. It shows us the attractiveness and mystery-that ineffable ‘it’ factor-held by two of the leading players in the history of film. It’s a beautifully rendered work of art in its own right, the kind that stops you in your tracks even if you are not familiar with the subjects. That is the point. It is beautiful, yes, but it also brings up questions. You will remember it long after you walk by, or click on this slideshow. What works of art not only decorate but demand discussion in your city?