Expression and Critical Thought on the Free Wall

Courtesy of Kai McDaniel
Courtesy of Kai McDaniel

by Kai McDaniel

Staff Reporter

Who has walked by the Free Wall recently and had to stop and do a double-take? The most recent addition to the Free Wall is a black and white mural created by Pitzer senior Adrian Brandon. It’s vast scale takes up much of the Free Wall, yet it’s compelling imagery is definitely worth it. On the left side, people stand with blank picket signs; in the middle, a woman with the most incredibly perfect afro holds up her fist amid even larger fists; and on the right side, young people with hoodies stand with their hands raised. One can infer many things from the painting, one can sit and contemplate over it, yet will they truly understand it? Critics say that once an artist creates something and gives it to the public, the artist’s opinion doesn’t matter so much anymore. I don’t think that is true at all and I’m happy to write that I tracked down Adrian Brandon—by that I mean I spotted him in the McConell dinning hall and interrupted his lunch—and we scheduled an interview.

Adrian Brandon is double majoring in Studio Art and Sustainability In the Built Environment. He’s debating whether to get into architecture or urban landscaping. Though he doesn’t see himself as a painter, he created a mural with distinct social commentary. The painting is like a timeline inspired by the recent controversial events in Florida surrounding the death of Trevon Martin. Brandon stated feeling unsettled and upset “ ever since Trevon Martin and the ridiculous police brutality and the unnecessary acts of violence against minorities” that have occurred in the past year. He felt that something needed to be said outside of the limited perspective of the media that often slants information. By painting the mural, he is trying to illustrate that “over time, despite all the work that has been done since the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Panther Era, we’re still dealing with the same kind of issues that we were dealing with 50 to 60 years ago.” Anyone who sees the mural can agree that he accomplished his goal. The mural doesn’t state the obvious or dumb down the viewer with unnecessary labels, it presents an image and allows the viewer to ask questions. This response was also a part of Brandon’s artistic vision for the mural. As a public art piece, Brandon said “I want people to stop and look at it and think about it a little bit. Hopefully it interrupts their day and it’s not another story that people click through to like or dislike. I want it to be a constant reminder.” The mural is a reminder of the progress that society has made so far and the progress that has yet to come.

Since the mural has such a powerful message, should it be on the Free Wall? Brandon is highly aware that his painting has caused a bit of controversy, “a lot of people have told me that they’re mad it’s on the Free Wall because it’s an intimidating thing to paint over.” He initially wanted to paint it as a permanent mural yet now that it is on the Free Wall he is interested in how people will paint over it. Brandon finds it quite awesome that “people could paint over it without working with this piece or they could use the blank signs and blank faces to build off this piece.” He has no doubt that he could replicate the mural if the need arises, “this isn’t the only time I could paint it. I’m just curious to see how the community reacts. I want them to paint over it. It is the Free Wall.” I’d say that is a challenge to all the Pitzer and 5C folks keen on expressing themselves on the Free Wall.  

Before, I stated that critics have said that once an artist creates something and gives it to the public, the artist’s opinion doesn’t matter so much anymore. Adrian Brandon has deconstructed that idea. His artistic voice is just as important as the black and white mural that captures the Free Wall. If anything, his answers to my simple questions about his motivation and message have added to the painting and made it complete. Hopefully the mural captures viewers, and more artists, in the way Brandon wanted and beyond what he wanted. The Free Wall is a place for expression and critical thought.

Leave a Reply