"The Wall of the Americas" was painted using aproximateley 75 cans of spray paint and was finished in early July, 2009. Scot Borofsky, who created the mural, was inspired by art of ancient cultures ranging from New England to Bolivia and by pre-columbian architectural ruins sites he has visited. The mural was made with permission from Cersosimo Lumber, owners of the property, on Frost St., in downtown Brattleboro, Vermont, the artist's home town.
The "Wall of the Americas"
Last July, during Brattleboro's monthly Gallery Walk, a phalanx of art lovers made their way to an empty lot behind a chain-link fence, well off the regular gallery path. They were going to see a mural, painted on a wall that rises along a tiered street downtown. It's a gift from dramatic work of art, 180 feet long by 15 feet high, that he calls Wall of the Americas. “Street art takes in, by its nature, the immediate surroundings: telephone poles, streetlights, bridge abutments,” he says. “It all becomes part of the art.”
Coming down Elm Street from Canal to Frost, one gets a distant, intriguing glimpse of the wall. But the mural is best seen at street level, where it opens into the colorful world of an Andean rainforest-the geometric, abstract remains of an ancient civilization. Borofsky's colors, courtesy of Krylon spray paint, are somehow both subtle and primary: reds, oranges, greens and blues. One section is bright purple. Others include geometric spirals, looming mountains, stylized animals and stepped shapes that play off the bricks in the wall.
Borofsky brings to Brattleboro's landscape his unique vision-a blend of the enduring infused with the street smarts of the here and now. It's a vision he offers to anyone who happens to wander by.
Borofsky was born in Brattleboro in 1957. He attended Brattleboro Union High School until tenth grade, then went to Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan from 1973 to 1975. He graduated with a major in theater-both acting and technical aspects, such as lighting and set construction. His father owns a chain of clothing stores in the Brattleboro area; his mother was a piano teacher. “music was a big element of my youth,” he says. “I learned to play the saxo, along with piano and later the guitar, the manduria and different types of the flute. I usually play music before painting. One of my great influences, Paul Gauguin, was also supposed to have been an enchanting musician. I love painting because of its 'permanence,' but I have music in my head all the time.”
Borofsky earned a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1981, and then studied at the Brooklyn Museum on a Max Beckman painting scholarship. He cut his artist's teeth on the Lower East Side, when he first fell in love with an art form that doesn't fit into a room, that costs nothing to see, and that viewers are obliged to experience in the context of daily life. Before long, he had joined an influential cadre of artists, painting 25 “wallworks” and then going on to be represented by Mokotoff Gallery, one of Manhattan's leading galleries at that time. Borofsky's work is featured in three books on the street art movement. He returned to Vermont in 1991.
While media-and law enforcement-often focus on the renegade aspect of “tagging” and street art, according to Borofsky the real message is that art is meant to be integrated with life. During the five-year gestation period after Borofsky first noticed the wall and realized it was a perfect canvas, he learned of the petroglyphs-primitive rock carvings-along the Connecticut river in Bellows Falls, some 20 miles north. He has incorporated those petroglyphs into one area of the mural.
It was important to Borofsky that the mural contain architectural nooks-places where something had been, but now is gone. And in this case, nature has definitely prevailed. The artist had to hack through overgrowth to get close enough to paint, and thick vines still drape over the wall. Painted in June and July 2009, Borofsky worked eight hours a day for three days, then three hours a day for eight days- a geometric balance, even in his work schedule. “And then there was some tweaking,” he adds. “I want to do things that make people ask: 'Was that always there?' I like to wake them up to the environment they live in.”
The disparate elements in Wall of the Americas evoke the feeling of an architectural ruin. Yet the work of an architectural ruin. Yet the work retains a visual integrity, perhaps arrived at not only through the long, patient execution, but also through the power of the artist's unique vision.
Borofsky has traveled extensively throughout Mexico and points south, and his visual language is thoroughly steeped in Pre-Columbian iconography symbols, a time when images were inseparable from the spirits of the people who created and appreciated them. “My influences come from diverse sources, such as the stepped geometrics of Aztec culture, Mixtec weaving, Mayan ruins, and Navajo and Plains Indian art,” he says.
Currently Borofsky is working on several paintings in the lobby of the Barber Building, where he has maintained a studio for years. He has chosen the inspiration of Mount Wantastiquet, a few hundred feet across the Connecticut River, and the Green Mountains surrounding Brattleboro on its western and northern edge. “The colors and shapes have a psychological impact. I think about that,” he says. “I want my designs to be uplifting.”
Borofsky's murals pay homage to past cultures. They also invite visitors to experience a pre-verbal, universal link to the natural world... a worthy gift for this new century of global perspectives and earth awareness.
Article by Arlene Distler