A Few Words from Dublin
In a span of only three days in March Fort Smith, Arkansas received a massive original work of art and a proud message, created by an internationally-known artist from Dublin.
The artist is called Maser. Spray paint is his preferred medium and urban concrete walls often serve as his canvas. His style (and one-name identity) grew from his roots as a graffiti writer and expanded with his study of typography design. Other works of his can be seen in Dublin, his home; and in London, Austria, Copenhagen, Prague, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Nepal, New York and, now, Fort Smith.
Why Fort Smith? Why not, thought Steve Clark, the local businessman who invited Maser to create the massive mural at Boardertown Skatepark at the Quarry Shopping Center. Clark learned of Maser from a friend who had moved here from Ireland. He decided to reach out with an e-mail, although his friend's estimation of Clark making a connection were "a likelihood of about zero," Clark said.
"I sent a note to him that ended with 'I'm not going to waste your time,'" Clark said. Maser's reply was, "You have my attention."
Their common bond was in art as a positive message - among other shared philosophies. Clark, a partner in of Rockfish Interactive, a digital interactive firm, and owner of Propak warehousing and freight services, is an entrepreneur and a self-described "incubator" of people with ideas. "I am interested in people who are risk-takers, creative - prepared to go alone," he said. "That's the same DNA as a skater has, that I see in my son Andy and his skater friends."
Clark opened Boardertown last year as a state-of-the-art indoor park for skaters, but with features beyond ramps and rails. He also enveloped the interior with outsider art, from both local graffiti writers and by Higher Level Art of Cincinnati, a commercial graphics art group. The vast inside walls of the park are a gallery of powerful, graffiti-style murals by Avert, Gamble and Typo, with oversized figures of skateboarders in action. Higher Level also detailed the skate course in bright graphics.
Graffiti artists and skateboarders are sometimes disregarded as vandals or nuisances. Clark wanted Boardertown to positively embrace them both. By "bathing the park in art," he said, he wants to create an environment that makes skating legit and engages skaters' bodies, minds and spirit.
Maser understands Clark's aims. In Dublin, he has lately been painting uplifting works during Ireland's current economic downturn, a severe recession that is creating unemployment after a decade that held a boom and bust. The public art includes a long, green wall with popping, 6-foot-high type that reads "I'm a Homebird," tiny stickers all over incidental surfaces in town that say "Maser♥You" and a encouraging "They Are Us" campaign inspired by and in favor of helping unemployed or homeless citizens.
He teamed with Irish singer-songwriter Damien Dempsey for works signed Maser / Damo, a series painted (by permission) on Dublin walls.
Some were Dempsey's lyrics, such as "Ancient Poetry Echoes in Soft Rain Down the Lanes." Others were simple calls to be courageous and decent: "In a World Full of Shame & Regret Do Something to Be Proud of."
Maser's Boardertown work references the Irish immigrants who left the country after the 1840s Irish famine. From 1830 to 1914, almost 5 million went to the United States alone.
"I was thinking about the Irish diaspora," he said, referring to the 41 million descendants who claim an Irish heritage and who still feel connected to Ireland. "This is a nod to those people."
In many cases, Maser's works on public walls are defaced, painted over or are worn away by weather. Photographer and videographer Eoin Murphy traveled with him to document what Maser paints while in the United States. To Maser, his message is more important to him than the permanence of the work.
"It's disposable," he said. "It makes you not too precious about it. After I leave, I'll have my video."
The massive, psychedelic St. Patrick at Boardertown, however, may be here to stay. Even if it someday fades away, Maser and Clark have made their mark.
©Photos by Eoin Murphy, used by permission
Special thanks to Sabot.