It’s A Mural, In The Making

The one-two confluence of Black History Month and Women’s History Month had been drawing to a close and the moment had drawn a small collective of creatives and budding young artists to come together to paint a mural that will eventually adorn the walls of a local Food Bazaar, along Wyckoff Avenue, where it will serve as something of a poignant tribute to reflect back on this time of year. 

Urban Decay, the California cosmetics brand run by the L’Oréal beauty conglomerate, and long celebrated for creating iconic smokey eye looks and its commitment to hawking what they call cruelty-free products, had put the money behind the project. It was being worked by Groundswell NYC, a local nonprofit that has put up some 500 murals in the city since 1996, including a few that have adorned walls in Bushwick throughout the years. This latest project was a showcase for the artistic prowess of one Jade Purple Brown, a digital artist based in Brooklyn. 

Brown had created this latest mural digitally, as well, called Making History. It portrays a captivating close-up of a Black woman, her visage adorned with a gentle smile. Above her eyes, fiery hues of red and yellow intertwine delicately as her eyeshadow ascends into a vibrant blue and black motif, resembling wings. The Urban Decay “UD” trademark adorns the top left corner.  Positioned in the lower left corner, bold block letters declare, “History In The Making,” infusing Brown’s portrait with its timely significance. 

Her digital piece, originally commissioned as a towel design for Urban Decay, had been transposed onto a colossal mural canvas by Michaela “Miki” Muserra, an artist who works for Groundswell, which is headquartered in Gowanus. The group’s project had brought along over 40 others too, including 15 artists in an after-school program Groundswell runs, along with some 17 local content creators. The students had come from FIT, Gotham, and the Brooklyn High School of the Arts. 

But Brown’s own artistic vision, characterized by its lively palette of bright, vibrant colors, serves as the guiding thread throughout the piece. A glimpse into her portfolio reveals a kaleidoscope of hues—radiant oranges, vivid pinks, and striking blues—transforming various subjects, from the exuberant forms of Black women in joyful poses to a whimsical collaboration with Build-A-Bear Workshop, where the iconic plush bears are reimagined as colorful fashion icons. 

When asked about her love for vibrancy, she tells me that “the rationale behind my depiction of bold, dynamic, confident women in vibrant hues is rooted in my desire to present myself similarly in the world. Growing up, I never witnessed Black women being portrayed in this manner.” 

Her fixation on luminosity seems to seamlessly aligns with her work with the Urban Decay brand which itself champions “high-pigmented, long-lasting color.”

She specializes in digital art as a medium and wields a computer instead of a paintbrush for most of her work. When telling me about how technology is changing the world for young artists like herself, she says, “it’s looked down upon to use digital art but with everything being AI, that is where it’s heading. It’s a lot more accessible for people.”

“One thing that’s been helpful from what I’ve been seeing, social media is so bad but it can be used for good for young artists. I did not have any examples of thriving artists growing up. It was all education about struggling artists. Through Instagram and even sites like Tumblr, you’re able to see that you’re not weird in what you like. They are able to see examples of what they could be through the internet and social media. They have access to learning and technique through YouTube and tutorials.”

Brown is, unsurprisingly, optimistic about how the internet and AI will change the way she works. 

“The internet makes art accessible for all rather than keeping it exclusively for those that can afford art supplies.”

The vision of 40 people painting her peice together was an inspiring sight, as high school students and content creators could be heard laughing together and drawing on small versions of the mural design, as well as the actual larger version plastered on the wall next to an array of paintbrushes and paint cans. Claudine DeSola, who works for the group, tells me that “Food Bazaar regularly partners with Groundswell in using art as a tool to beautify and enliven our communities. They have donated over a dozen walls to Groundswell.”

The mural will transition from Gowanus to Bushwick later this year for a months-long installation, where Brown tells me that “basically, we’re painting it now but once we leave, they’re gonna do another protective coat [so] if someone in Bushwick comes and draws a mustache or a nose ring, they can wipe it away with ease.” 

Hopefully, perhaps, no wiping will be required once this beautifully vibrant mural graces the neighborhood. Talking to Brown, it’s hard not to share her enthusiasm. 

“I really hope it brightens people’s day as they’re on their commute and helps them feel seen. All the colors are going to excite people and light them up inside,” she says. 

Photos taken by Michelle Maier.

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