Kenny Be's Yard Arteology: Housepaint Saint's mural moral

The study of neighbors through their lawn ornaments...

Figure 23. Elyria-Swansea: Virgin of Guadalupe takes a bow

The house-paint mural is the most unforgiving of the yard arts, and that is why it is so rare. Most yard artists avoid it because nothing broadcasts an individual's skill set better, or generates yard-art criticism faster, than a larger-than-life-sized personal vision painted on a wall. The house-paint muralist goes far beyond rearranging store-bought statuary on the lawn, and in doing so turns the act of property decoration into a secret personal confession.

The Virgin of Guadalupe symbol usually depicts a prayerful upright Mary cloaked in a sunburst maguey mantle before a startled Juan Diego. In the mural pictured in figure 23, the yard artist has painted the Virgin stepping out of her mantel, leaving her crown hovering above a virginless void. The bowed position suggests that the homeowner believes Mary to be the ultimate stage performer -- someone who is even worshipped by the sombrero-clad El Vez, the Mexican Elvis. The tightly controlled brushwork of the figures surrounded by the slapdash sponge and spray renderings of the landscape indicates a preference for high-energy musical-variety shows over respect for the natural world. The shadows cast by the two cacti behind El Vez, which use the Virgin as the painting's light source, also suggest that the yard artist needs a lesson in one-point perspective.

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