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A Wheatpaste to Chronic Illness, Blur Puts Up A Self Portrait in Kensington

June 18, 2019

I’ve been lucky to know Blur for a while now. First as an artist I documented, now as a friend. For years she’s been creating some of the most interesting street art work in Philly, much of which I’ve blogged about. She was an artist in my To the Polls exhibition. And in 2018 we recorded her life and career thus far for our Streets Dept Oral History Project. So, when Blur texted me a couple weeks ago letting me know the locations of some new work she just put up, I ran out to shoot it as quickly as I could!

Located at Philip and Oxford streets in Kensington, when I came across the illustration/ wheatpaste photographed above I texted her immediately for more context. I was really in a bit of awe. For one, the paste itself was bigger than most of her street art work and to my memory this was the first self portrait she’s ever created. I figured there was more to this paste, and knowing Blur I thought she’d like to share. The following is what Blur sent me about the piece:

Detached is a self portrait of how it feels to struggle with my physical illnesses. Deeply personal, but relatable to nearly anyone who sees it. Chronic illness affects approximately 133 million Americans, representing more than 40% of our population. Chronic health issues are so common we are currently dealing with the largest opioid epidemic in history, and we see a lot of the ramifications here in Philadelphia, and we feel them in our homes. The mental grit it takes to manage and cope with painful symptoms also has consequences, the one I’ve felt the most has been using detachment as a coping skill. In the portrait I’ve depicted electrical outlets that land at my wrists where my hands are missing. My eyes purposely covered with two brush strokes express the choice of closing my eyes when it becomes too much. All in all, I created it to share my experience in hopes to connect with someone else who may feel the same, because I know they’re out there – and to those of you who are going through something big, you’re doing a fucking great job.”

Blur ended her email with me by adding the poem she wrote that inspired the illustration:

Stiff joints and high pain levels
I leave my body often and only return when the coast is clear
Anxiety turning me inside out while I sit here seeming calm
Unplug me please, turn off the aching in my bones
Body, let’s push through and carry our bruised weak limbs to the bathroom to brush my hair.
Look in the mirror and say it’ll be ok.
Keep taking the pills
Keep doing whatever you can too slow it all down. – Blur

At the corner of Blur’s installation above, I also caught this new sticker from her (photographed below.) This was all photographed the same day I shot the other recent work of Blur’s at Berks and Frankford in Fishtown, if you missed that, where she installed a sticker relating to her wheatpaste above.

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