Over the past two weeks, Boston has seen a giant grow in its midst. He arrived not in the form of a sports legend, or a political heavyweight, but as a vision in the minds of imaginative Brazilian artists Os Gêmeos (Gustavo and Otavio Pandolfo), identical twin brothers known for painting yellow, cartoonish, colorfully clad figures on urban canvases across the globe. With the help of countless cans of spray paint and a whole lot of time on a lift, “The Giant of Boston” slowly emerged from the artists’ dreams to reality, right on the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway–a site well suited to a public mural of this kind.
Sporting loud, bright blue and brown checkered pajama bottoms with a clashing green and gold patterned top, Boston’s giant does anything but sleep. He is awake, observing (perhaps with a little childlike, mischievous delight) the activity going on beneath him in Dewey Square. He slouches quite perfectly; his bent knees slide up to the right hand corner of the air intake structure on which he is painted, while his head (wrapped in a tangerine tango mask of sorts, fashioned from a long-sleeved shirt) fills the rounded portion on the left.
There is so much to love about this new giant in our midst. His presence brings a sense of culture and vibrancy to this area of downtown Boston whose architecture can seem so corporate, so dark, so cold. It extends the artistic reach of the ICA (currently home to the twins’ first American museum solo exhibition) well beyond the waterfront. It reinforces the beauty of the Greenway as a place to gather, to picnic, to play, to walk, and perhaps even to enjoy internationally relevant, world class public art.
While most citizens greeted our newest neighbor with warmth, fascination, enthusiasm, and hospitality, there were a handful of those who felt a bit threatened by his arrival. They chose to go to a much darker place, one where racism and discomfort (ignited by fear and an aversion to the unfamiliar) prevented them from taking some time to get to know the giant behind the mask (and the motives of the artists behind that giant).
Os Gêmeos and their painted giant bring with them to Boston a new point of view; I, for one, am thrilled to have an opportunity to spend the next 18 months befriending this invited stranger and learning about his roots. I’m curious to follow the public’s evolving reactions to his presence over several seasons and remain hopeful that the overall dialogue he has inspired will be far more constructive, illuminating, and respectful than controversial.
As is the case with exceptional works of public art, “The Giant of Boston” represents an opportunity. It’s a chance for the people of Boston to articulate how we feel about and pay homage to creativity, out of the box ideas, pluralities of opinions, and the efforts of artists within our society. And it’s another vehicle through which to explore the social and cultural issues that bubble just below the surface of our everyday banter. That pursuit is a healthy one, and with a little luck, the conversations sparked by our new giant will lead to an ever-growing presence of excellent, large-scale, temporary public art in our city in the months and years to come.
(I’d like to say a special thank you to a few people with whom I conversed on-site in Dewey Square on August 8, 2012 and whose comments helped inform aspects of this post: Sasha Pace, Jeff and Jenn Stienbach, Cher Krause Knight, and ICA Teen Arts Council members Izzy Ramirez and Xan Pemsler.)
Note: A quick google search of “Os Gêmeos Boston” will yield a number of key news articles that can round out the background information to which I alluded in this post.
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About the AuthorValerie Linson
Valerie Linson is the Managing Producer for WGBHArts. She is also the Series Producer for Basic Black and the Executive Editor for its accompanying website at WGBH.org. Basic Black is New England's longest-running television program devoted to explorations of the black experience.