In Spring of 2014 I was invited to participate in a public art event in Amman, Jordan. I was one of 10 muralists from around the globe, we each painted a wall in downtown Amman with the help of close to 30 volunteers. The festival was held by Derbi Tours. Its blanket theme to carry across all the work was "water".
My design is comprised of various wetland and river scenes in Jordan, the most important one being from the Azraq Wetland Reserve. Ive learned that there is a direct connection between water preservation in Jordan, and the massive bird migrations that are characteristic of this area in the Middle East.
As Amman becomes more populous a city, more efforts are being spent on water conservation and drawing from multiple sources. As this water source and the Jordan river is compromised, the migrations wane.
I compiled a landscape combining images elements of the Azraq reserve, and perforated the sky with a massive bird migration scene, one that, in the design, was reflected in the water to show its important role in this process. Due to time restraints, I was unable to paint the reflections in the water. The festival was 2 weeks, but by the time all the kinks were sorted out, I had 8 days to complete this.
The mural features larger paintings and glass cutouts of national and migratory birds. A barn owl is prominently featured. There are partnerships between Jordan, Israel, and Palestine focused around the barn owl and other bird wildlife based in conservation, with lasting side effects of fostering peace between nations, and collaboration. Birds are without Borders. Amman center for Peace and Development is one such organization, who had a hand in these partnerships.
I have read that the owl might not be an appropriate symbol in some islamic nations, and can be seen as a negative Omen. Once I arrived and spoke to people about the design, and I was encouraged to include it.
We each got a chance to speak in the Odeon at the festivals' dedication. The event's co-organizer, Zaid Derbi, pictured here, did an incredible job, and probably slept for a week straight after we left.
At one point in history, Amman was under Roman rule, and was called Philadelphia, if you can believe it.
I travelled halfway around the world to continue to be a Philadelphia muralist. There are Roman ruins throughout the downtown area. If you squint you can see my wall from the Amphitheater.
You can get a better view from the Odeon, just next to the Amphitheater
If you continue up the mountain on the road extending beyond all of our murals, you will reach the Temple of Hercules ruins.
You can see the walls from the Temple as well
Day one, workers were figuring out how to best hang my swingstage.
This gave me time to get exact measurements and map out and grid my design accordingly.
Shaza, my first volunteer, helped me draw the grid and snap chalk lines. I was the only muralist to work with a grid, which intrigued the groups of kids. There was this expectation that I would be working freehand, just as the rest of the artists worked.. which was amazing to see.
I can't say I've ever had a grid done partially in Arabic before
Sarah is the head of the volunteers for this project. She works for an organization that seeks out opportunities like this one for volunteers. Shes never been on a swing stage before. I am told that her mother freaked out when she saw the photos
Burghall was a solid assistant and helped me quickly draw everything out. He's done some amazing murals throughout Amman.
My swing stage, due to restrictions of the building and rooftop, is 7 feet too narrow. I'm getting around this by painting with rollers and using it as an actual swing.
A majority of the landscape was blocked in solid colors, and then repainted in detail.
Taking a break to be interviewed in front of my mural.
Travelling in a van back to our hotel at the end of the day.
On any day with a little bit of wind, you'll see kites throughout the skies in Amman. you can see the kids on the rooftop flying this one.
This was one of my favorite memories. I don't take enough time in my life to fly some kites.
This is the Propane truck, which plays an "Ice Cream Truck" jingle. Everyone uses propane in their homes to cook... etc. Which means that this truck is around all day long. It took months to get this out of my head.
Here is the jingle.
Placeholders are made out of thinset, for the birds I precut out of colored mirror.
As the other artists began wrapping up, I was just getting started on my bird silhouettes, we had a revolving roster of volunteers helping me draw and fill everything in. Zaina, in blue, and her friend took this shift.
The stucco colored silhouettes making their way to the water
Rima Mulallah is a an incredible Jordanian muralist. I was extremely grateful to meet her, and get to know her and her work. She owns a shop on the other mountain across town called Love on a Bike. Here I am making her uncomfortable with all the photos.
Best storefront in Amman!
Suhaib is another Jordanian muralist. He was good enough to lend a hand when we needed him. He's been doing fantastic murals throughout Amman, and with an organization called Apt art in Syrian refugee camps.
He brought us breakfast this morning, incredible bread and a variety of spreads.
A view outside an apartment on the way to my roof.
Sinai rose finch, done in mirror
The Palestinian sunbird
Just about finished the silhouettes, the challenge now was to use the swingstage as an actual swing to paint the rest.
Majd, an amazing assistant helping me wrap up the migrating birds at the last minute... One more day to go on the large birds. All of the cut mirror birds in the wall as well.
That night we were taken out for Mansaf! The traditional dish of Jordan. It was HEAVY
I had a plan to have the neighborhood kids work on cloth, something that was going to tie in to the mural, that plan quickly descended into chaos, but the kids seemed to have fun, and thats all that mattered. They were pretty eager to participate in any way
The kids were incredibly focused on their own things, they'd been waiting to do something like this. I saw a few quietly painting a skateboard with a color, then I brought out my brushes and cloth, and within 5 minutes there were close to 40 kids painting. It happened so quick.
Here is a shot of the wall at dusk when the mirror birds become highly reflective. The mirror birds and the fully fleshed out birds are in the formation of the constellation Aquarius
The dedication walking tour. All of the murals were on a tight walking route lasting about 20 or so minutes. We all got the opportunity to speak about our work to the crowd.
Storefronts full of spices.
Downtown Amman, with the completed murals
View from the Odeon
While waiting for our lifts to get setup we took a day, and travelled to Petra. I took hundreds of photos.
The Treasury at Petra. One of the Wonders of the World.
This would be a timeless moment, if these guys weren't blasting Arabic hip-hop from those camels. I am not kidding.
Just before the swingstage came down
I was interviewed for Humans of Amman. Check them out on IG