Artist Faring Purth Begins Massive Cherokee Street Mural; Detractors Call It Racist, Sexist

Categories: Arts

muralpurth.jpg
Allison Babka
The beginning of Faring Purth's new mural on Cherokee Street.
Faring Purth, a wandering street artist famous nationally for her hauntingly distorted portraits, landed in St. Louis weeks ago with the dream of adding a massive mural to the Lou's street art scene.

But things changed when Purth found her way to Cherokee Street, an up-and-coming neighborhood for artistic entrepreneurs. After starting her mural on a brick wall at Cherokee Street and Jefferson Avenue, Purth says she's done traveling for a while and she wants to stay in St. Louis.

"All I know right now is St. Louis has been an experience like no other," Purth posts on Facebook. (She declined to be interviewed before her work was finished.) "So much to see. So much to touch. And I have already met people I feel profoundly connected to. People I want to know my whole life and whom I'd be heartbroken to say goodbye to...without giving myself the chance to truly learn them."

See also: Southern Living Names Cherokee Street "Next Great Neighborhood"

And Cherokee Street business leaders say they've been just as excited to get to know her and to watch her work progress.

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Courtesy of Faring Purth
Gretchen, a mural by Faring Purth in Covington, Kentucky.
"She's just really been taken in by the community here," says Cara Spencer, who runs the Nebula Coworking space on Cherokee Street. "The larger Cherokee community has embraced her being here, her artwork, who she is. It was not our intent to keep her here, but why not, right?"

Purth has only completed the base layer of her mural -- a silhouette of a woman in a fetal position that stretches more than 100 feet wide and 40 feet high -- but her work is already making waves among local street art enthusiasts. Ann Wimsatt, a co-founding partner at Cite Works Architects, criticized the piece as antifeminist.

"Just in case we cannot get enough of it in music, film and TV, more oppressive symbolism hurled in the faces of the women of the city. Dislike," Wimsatt posted on Facebook.

See also: Another Huge Mural on Cherokee, But This Time, No Backlash

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Photo by Matthew Watling
Family, a piece by Farin Purth in Oakland, California.

St. Louis artist Tara Schneider, who ran the Failnot Postcard Project, rejected the mural as an unnecessary outsider's representation of racial oppression in St. Louis. UPDATE: The post was up for a few hours and deleted from her personal Facebook page before this article was published. (See update below.)

"In my St. Louis, white women from out of town don't get to come in and define the experience of local women of color for them. Period," Schneider posts on Facebook. "My guess is that the artist will not be indefinitely residing in the parking lot to re-educate the silly art-illiterate folk who read this as, 'Just a reminder: We think you're hideous and pathetic.'"

UPDATE: Spencer said Schneider had already sent a heartfelt apology to the artist and posted a public apology Monday afternoon, before this article was written. Schneider says she retracted her original comments from her Facebook page early Monday morning, just a few hours after they went up, not as a result of this article.

"I should have dug deeper and tried harder to contact those intimately connected with the situation, and asked them my questions and let them respond to my concerns, critiques, issues, etc. before writing some heavy editorial on the topic," she posted online Monday afternoon. "I don't think I had any right to say a lot of the things I did, some of which must have came across as very self-righteous and/or out of touch. I was appalled by what I saw on that wall, but I went about it the wrong way from there and I apologize."

Spencer says Schneider's change of heart is evidence of the trans formative power of art, even of a piece so early in its development.

"This is what you hope for when you create art, to create a dialogue," Spencer says. "It game me goosebumps just to read (Schneider's apology.)" End of update.

Purth reminded critics that her mural is only in its very beginning stages.

"I hope you are, at the very least, curious enough to watch her grow," Purth responds to Wimsatt on Facebook. "This is the base coat of an immense work of art, one that will undoubtedly give you another fifteen layers of symbolism to knead through (one that I have undoubtedly had to face fifteen layers of oppressive thought to create.)"

Purth's mural is going up on the side of Nebula Coworking. See what Nebula thinks of their new office artwork on page two.

Location Info

Map

Nebula Coworking

3407 S. Jefferson Ave., St. Louis, MO

Category: General


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51 comments
Colleen Peck
Colleen Peck

I don't like it. That big of a space could be used for something more appealing.

Dan Jaboor
Dan Jaboor

When your name and business are posted with your statement it causes a lot of folks to reconsider their words.

David J. McCutcheon
David J. McCutcheon

People admitting they were wrong on the Internet?? I knew this winter was rough, but for Hell to freeze over is certainly kooky.

Genia Ackworth
Genia Ackworth

Ok. Thanks. I have to ask because anything is art nowadays.

bill.streeter
bill.streeter topcommenter

The RFT should hire a base coat critic. 

Carlie Trosclair
Carlie Trosclair

@Brian Kennedy Instead of attacking art as ruining the landscape of our brick beauty what about what we allow to happen to our historic brick homes all over the city that are pillaged, demolished, or neglected into ruin?

jealousblues1
jealousblues1 topcommenter

people sure love to complain about things.

David J. McCutcheon
David J. McCutcheon

Guess you can't depict a silhouette without it being racist, or draw curves without it being sexist. I also suppose women with curves should be ashamed for having been born in such a sexist manner. Listen, I'm as liberal as they come and even I think this is ridiculous.

kwernowsky
kwernowsky

Can we call it was it really is...terrible art?

Eric Farlow
Eric Farlow

Then you stop taking someone else's 100+ year old brick wall so seriously where you have to be pseudo outraged about another someone else painting art on it.

Ed Gibson
Ed Gibson

was actually just up there...a lot more has been done and it actually looks kinda cool...

Brian Kenney
Brian Kenney

Once you paint the brick you can not get it off, without damaging the brick. In 10 years this neighborhood may be in a different stage in its development and this piece may not fit. Then what?

Steve Van Booven
Steve Van Booven

I guess but why? Why do you care about the bricks or how old they are? Really, I'm a bit curious. The owners are the ones allowing it, it's not some random vandalism. This is not some historic, landmark building that is being defaced. The bricks will still serve their purpose, they are not being destroyed just because they have some paint on them.

Scott Neale
Scott Neale

Ann Wimsatt and Tara Schneider, as esteemed artists and architects, I would assume you should know the basic fundamentals of any painting... I guess I was wrong. .... It's a base coat. It's not finished. RELAX YOURSELVES. I for one am thrilled to has another amazing artist choose our great city as a place to create art

Brian Kenney
Brian Kenney

Can I bitch because of the destruction of 100+ year old brick?

Brian Kenney
Brian Kenney

And now that brick will never be the same. It is a shame that one person thinks that their art should override 100+ years of beauty.

Rj Hub
Rj Hub

time to paint the sides of bldg.??? how about redoing some of those AWFUL store fronts that make west Cherokee street look like the hood.

John Skaggs
John Skaggs

You know now that I think about it, this painting could symbolize the American Indian oppression too. I mean it is on Cherokee st and the bricks are red, like indians, and now she is covering it up with black paint. Oh nooooo, what are we going to do about the indians now? Oh and those yellow polls seem to be holding back the black female figure too. aghhh when will it all stop.... This was a bit of sarcasm for those who don't get it.

Cate Bischof
Cate Bischof

I'm interested to see the finished piece, I'm very intrigued by her work...but I'm not sure what's racist about it (feel free to enlighten me if you know). I don't really know much about her work, but I hope I'm just missing something and people aren't simply calling it racist because it is a figure painted in black (and very unfinished I might add). If so, try stepping out of the box once in a while.

John Skaggs
John Skaggs

Racism, really? Some people are so stupid. That work kicks ass. My office is in the building too, right about where her knee is, and I'm glad to have it there.

Constance Cafazza
Constance Cafazza

I REFUSE to not be offended by whatever this is! It doesn't seem right to me and I'm pretty sure that that means that I'm way more smart, cool and sensitive than those of you that aren't offended. (Chill out people...I got this whole "offended" thing covered!)

Homer K Blua
Homer K Blua

Keep up the good work Faring Purth ... Any work of art that doesn't cause people to question and think isn't worth giving a wall to.. Us artist need to stick together and create a new reality threw diversified non commercial media!

Ryan Grewe
Ryan Grewe

When it comes to Cherokee street there will be backlash on any mural there. I'm thinking it's time to move on to a different street to do murals. Because it seems like the neighborhood doesn't appreciate anything people do to make it look better.

gsp333
gsp333

It's painted by a woman but labeled "antifeminist" and the paint is black therefore it's racist?


Isn't beauty in the eye of the beholder?

Bradley Pipkin
Bradley Pipkin

Can I paint? I'll paint lil white kids in khakis and polos If that helps people stop whining.

Eric Farlow
Eric Farlow

I guess in 2014 you can't even start painting before everyone knows what your end image is and the message behind it, assuming there even is a message behind it. Am I missing something?

Suzanne Scherrer
Suzanne Scherrer

I don't understand forming an opinion of the work when it's not finished.

Amber McDaniel
Amber McDaniel

I read the article and one artist said it was racial oppression..How do we know that if it's not even finished yet?

Steve Van Booven
Steve Van Booven

How can anyone be bitching about an unfinished work? Take some deep breaths and relax people

Ed Gibson
Ed Gibson

thats art? i thought they were patching up cracks on the wall

Spencer Whitton
Spencer Whitton

Those yellow posts and parking curbs need to be painted a different color.

cherokeeresident
cherokeeresident

it already has multiple advertisements painted on the side, one for "NAILS", and a huge "FAMILY DOLLAR / RENT A CENTER" taking up maybe 1/4 of the whole wall.  This mural will likely fit in the neighborhood 10 years from now, more so than the ads that have been there for years prior.  Relax buddy.

fiestyone
fiestyone

Bahahaha!! I love this response :D

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