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Stunning New Mural in Northern Liberties by Nile Livingston and Uriah Bussey

May 10, 2018

An awesome new temporary mural by a pair of Philly artists has popped up in Northern Liberties, and I’m loving it! The mural was created by the mentor/mentee duo of Nilé Livingston and Uriah Bussey, and commissioned by Sunkist, who sent me to check it out and has partnered with me on this blog post! You can find the mural now through the end of June at the intersection of 2nd and George streets.  

“I appreciate how public artworks like murals are a platform for communication between a wide range of ideas and perceptions. It leaves us open to learning about who we are.” Nilé responded when I asked why having art in the public space was important to her. This is now the second recent mural I’ve document for this blog by Nilé; the other a tribute to James Baldwin. About their collaboration, Nilé added, “I invited Uriah in because she’s talented and I love how thoughtful and expressive she is; there’s a sense of mutual regard and admiration between us.”

Nilé and Uriah’s new mural was handpainted on the Northern Liberties’ wall over several days last week. When asked about what she hopes people feel when they walk by the piece, Uriah responded, “I hope they feel the vibrancy of the colors we put in to represent how we see the community as vibrant people. I pray that it makes them happy and hopeful to have a more joyous and conscience decision about giving back to mother earth as well as much as we receive from it.”

When it comes to the mural’s inspiration, Nilé replied that it was inspired by working with Sunkist: “I am inspired by the principle that Sunkist was founded on, that ‘we are stronger together’ and how Sunkist exists to empower individual farmers to do what they might not be able to alone; because there’s something motivating about working as a group to achieve something larger than just ourselves. This mural project was also a great opportunity to explore the possibility that consciousness is global deployment that comes through communication networks and a harmony with nature. I believe that we are made of what we consume, and that we are an accumulation of our surroundings; thus the title of the mural is ‘You Are What You Eat’.

Photographing the mural the day it was completed (last Friday,) my eyes were pulled in immediately. There’s so much rich detail and symbolism, I asked Nilé to walk us through it all:

“The richness in what you’re seeing is the contours of the figure shopping without being able to make out exactly who you are seeing, however it’s undeniable that the figure shopping is an older black male. That figure could be one of my relatives. I chose to insert someone that needed more visibility and positive representation in our society because images have the power to expand and reshape consciousness. We’re living in a strange time in American culture when what it means to be human on earth and the ways in which we exist and what we consume orients us. I didn’t want the conversation to stop at gender, skin tone, or age. We can branch out and think about how the mural is making us feel, what the artwork is trying to understand about us, and how we came to be what we are.”

“The figure above him is an embodiment of mother nature, or a spirit, or some other worldliness. There’s a symbolic communication that’s evident in the position of the branches with high hanging foliage and oranges arching over the human that’s shopping. There’s something very tender being projected onto the Mother Earth like figure in how her hands flap like tendrils curling on both sides of the human, it’s a reflection of the natural world around us and an innate desire to expand.”

“We chose this configuration for the final mural because the guardian-like being felt very much engaged with the decisions that the figure carrying a shopping cart might make. He’s in the produce section of the market, and the figure hovering over him is peering into his basket with a hopeful gaze.”

Thanks so much to Nilé and Uriah for your interviews, and shout out to Sunkist for sponsoring the work of such talented artists here in Philly!

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