Gloria Talamantes / Fight the Buff (Chicago)
Fight the Buff (2021) by artist Gloria Talamantes
This is my act of joy while using the things I am most passionate about to remind myself of who I am, where I come from, and the greater purpose of this human experience. I have been able to transcend through the obstacles that have been purposely put in front of me to deter me from being interconnected since before I was born. Thus, Black & Brown specifically honors our right to collective joy.
Two large repurposed doors at the entrance of the 6018North house are alternately painted in colorful murals—as well as painted over using a buff brown color the City of Chicago employs to erase graffiti.
This project engages ideas of perception, and what is little known other than by public artists and graffiti artists themselves about double standards of urban expressions in Chicago and around the world. This artwork is additionally inspired by the way Lorraine Hansberry received questions or statements questioning if her play did in fact portray the life of a Black family from Chicago.
The 93 ‘Til Series photography of buildings across the South and West Sides of Chicago show areas in the city that have been systemically segregated and disinvested in for decades. The photos are witnesses to the destruction and lack of care for property through the buff program. The assemblage of this photo series contains pieces of brown chips of paint that have been collected from walls across the city over the span of 20 years. Each photograph includes a handwritten, factual statement about the Graffiti Blasters program and about the shared erasure that happens to BIPOC communities.
I spray paint graffiti letters, flora and fauna designs. Art is a universal language that transcends beyond paintings or images. My work seeks to give life to symbols of healing, growth, beauty, and possibilities for transformation at the individual and collective levels.
My work seeks to capture the soul of Chicago and its people while at the same time confronting the false narrative of the neighborhoods that have embraced me and have called home. This false narrative designates BIPOC spaces as unsafe based on categories designed to isolate and engender fear amongst those who do not live there.
My art philosophy serves as the catalyst for my life’s work: The Brown Wall Project, an ongoing undertaking that responds to the brown buffed walls of Chicago that are further symbols of systemic disinvestment and segregation. I am influenced and rooted in my Mexican heritage, Hip-Hop, graffiti, Chicago house music, nature, urban exploration, dance, and Old English letter styles. All of these formed part of my existence growing up on the West Side of Chicago. Yet it was graffiti that birthed me as an artist. Graffiti is where I found the power of my voice and realized the power of my art. My over 20 years as a visual artist have allowed me to evolve into a collaborator, a teaching artist, a youth mentor, a writer and a community builder. I believe that it is through collaboration that we create community and community is the cornerstone of my art and life’s work.
BIO: In 2005, artist Gloria Talamantes founded The Brown Wall Project—a citywide public art initiative to beautify Chicago’s neighborhoods against brown buffed walls. These buffed walls are not only detrimental to the aesthetics of communities, they are also a constant reminder that many neighborhoods are consistently isolated, forgotten, and deemed unsafe. Gloria is also a member of Mujeres Mutantes (MM), an all-woman Latinx art collective with roots all across Chicago’s South and West Sides.
(Gloria Talamantes, portrait photo by Seamus Doheny)