Out in San Francisco in 2001, even before I attempted at being an artist again, I worked out in a restaurant near Union Square. I’d spend my nights working in this tourist trap of a corporate food haven, hang up my apron, and head home 7 blocks to my apartment in the densely packed part of the Tenderloin. I lived in a walk in closet for $447.50 dollars a month, which laid on the 5th floor off of Geary Street. The great thing about this place, was our apartment was on the top floor, and outside our window laid the fire escape that led to the rooftop.
A fellow waitress of mine was one of my favorite people in the city. Her name was Carol and she was from Rio De Janeiro. Often, she and I would close together and we’d grab our shift meal from the restaurant, walk up the hill to my building, through my apartment, and up on the roof. She’d tell me about her home in Rio, and teach me Brazilian Portuguese while we would lay watching the fog roll downwards into the South of Market District.
She’d say “San Francisco is my heart in America, this building reminds me of home” and then would talk about her adventures out in the discotheques and her job that she had on the beaches of Ipanema. It was here where I fell in love with the culture of Rio through her stories, and became obsessive about learning about the city.
Thirteen years later I ended up on a clothing line project for a swimwear company that asked me to be their lead artist for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. I ended up studying again on Carol’s city, often nostalgically remembering our conversations and the lost connection I had with her after she left back home.
I ended up moving from Las Vegas and out to Chicago, where I would spend the cooling autumn months in my tiny apartment to configure these designs… and I was left with such a void, as my concentration was just with the city of Rio.
I wanted to know more.
Fast forward the completion of the project, and into the Spring… and I was to move again, this time back home to Georgia in a small town called Athens. I just finished “Know Where”, a Sketchwave series piece that went over my time at Comic-Con in San Diego to my travels back home in my temporary summer sublet off of Easy Street in Normaltown.. and recollected on where I felt a void in my storyline.
Brazil was my void, and it was perfect because I was two shy of completing the “Around The World Series”.
I sought to fill this artistic gap by just not talking about Carol’s city, but the entire country of Brazil. It was here where I created the piece “Bem Vindo Ao Brasil” (Welcome to Brazil), and went through, piece by piece about this country.
In this painting, I have created anchor spots for the two major cities, Rio De Janeiro, and São Paulo. In Rio you will see major points to the city like Avenida Atlântica, Carnaval, Corcovado, Banco Do Brasil, and Pão De Açucar. In São Paulo you will notice Avenida Paulista, Higienópolis, Bela Vista, MOOCA, Rua Augusta, and more. The beaches of both Ipanema and Praia Grande rest above these cities as well. In the green portions you will see the major forests of Brazil such as Passaquatro, Xie, Caxiuanã, Taragua, Amazonas, Xingu, and others. In the black of Mickey’s ears are other cities of Brazil like Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza, Curitiba, João Pessoa, and more. Above the Mickey head is the country flag of Brazil which states “Ordem E Progresso” (“Order and Progress”).
Of course, finishing this piece while satisfying my curiosity through basic research, only opened up a larger gap of what I long to learn. I hope in the future years I’ll be able to visit the various towns of Brazil and fully appreciate not only my painting of the piece, but the stories of Carol which were told on my rooftop those lovely fall nights out in San Francisco so long ago.