In the Key Food parking lot at 575 Grand St, a headless 35-foot person holds an enormous bouquet of azucenas (white lilies). A flower vendor walking throughout every neighborhood in San Juan, Puerto Rico selling azucenas inspired the main figure of “Olor a Azucenas el Perfume del Barrio.”
Don Rimx, the Puerto Rican artist who created the mural, chose to paint a worker as a way to create a cultural bridge between Puerto Ricans on the island and Puerto Ricans in Brooklyn, many of whom own local businesses in the Grand Street neighborhood. The vendor doesn’t have a face because anybody could be him. “It’s not just about him,” says Rimx. “It’s about the community and the people who work around there.”
To curate murals inspired by the community, the Grand Street Business Improvement District (BID) is working with Brooklyn-based visual art and film collective Owley. With discretionary funding from Council Member Stephen Levin, they commissioned Don Rimx for the first mural because of his style, his enthusiasm for the project, and his connection to the Grand Street neighborhood—in 2009 he moved from Puerto Rico to an apartment just a few blocks away from the location of the mural.
Rimx incorporated elements of the neighborhood in New York and the life in Puerto Rico within the mural. The brick apartment structure on the left side of the flower vendor’s chest is modeled after an actual apartment in the Grand Street area. A Puerto Rican flag hangs in one of the windows where the vendor’s heart is, creating a sentiment of home even if Puerto Ricans from New York viewing the mural will never get the chance to go to Puerto Rico.
The wooden structure coming out of the flower vendor’s chest and surrounding him, holds him together like bones. The wood represents the traditional way Puerto Ricans, like Rimx’s grandfather, built houses.
Along with the wood around the vendor are bright bricks with colors representing different energies. Rimx bent the bricks to encircle the vendor as a way to reference the cyclical stream of energy from different generations. Intertwined with the wood and bricks, are beads inspired by Yoruba necklaces, signifying different forms of spirituality and faith in the Puerto Rican community.
Using spray paint, Rimx created a vibrant color palette for the mural, which is also characteristic of his past work, because “the sun [in Puerto Rico] is really strong so the light is really bright and everything looks colorful,” says Rimx.
Along with connecting Puerto Ricans, Rimx says the mural is “also inviting other people to see our culture and how we relate to other cultures.” He hopes the mural will prompt in-person conversation, especially among strangers, in the neighborhood—a traditional way of creating community and sparking creativity.
Follow Don Rimx on Instagram.
Images courtesy of Grand Street BID.
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