Paint Your Scars Purple

Posted on by Barry Lee

A lot can happen in two years. Sometimes two years can escape you in an instant, sometimes a short amount of time can feel like 20 years. Two years ago I painted a mural that was a part of my second solo show "Home is Where You Drown" which was displayed at Octane Westside in Atlanta. I had been wanting to do murals at the time and so I asked about making one for the show not really expecting it to happen - yet, it did. "Stare" was a mural about me dealing with people who would often stare or gawk at me based on the way that I looked. The whole show was my first autobiographical visual showcase. I was in a weird place in my life, getting to know myself as an artist and getting to finally live a life without dealing with so many surgeries or doctors visits. Art had always played a role of being a coping mechanism for me, and this mural was a part of the healing.


"Stare" showed figures hiding in bushes looking at the viewer, the faces were very bleak. The idea was that when you entered Octane, you would see (or not see) various figures watching you. Sometimes you noticed them staring, other times you didn't. These figures were hiding behind bushes showing the shame in themselves for staring at something that was foreign to them. They're still noticeable though. After "Home is Where You Drown" was complete the folks at Octane decided to keep the mural up. I was happy about this. As the mural was still there though, my life changed. My outlook on strangers looking at me changed. I grew a better understanding on how to approach situations when I notice someone staring at me. I'm learning to stand up for myself and to call people out to hopefully help others understand that gluing your eye to somebody else that is different from you isn't respectful. A few months ago I approached Octane to repaint the mural. I wanted to create a piece that reflected the change in me, but also the growth of my style. I wanted to show more love and happiness versus bitterness. They kindly agreed. 

It was a daunting task over painting something that has meant something to you in the past and that has been a staple of a space for awhile. So I thought and I thought until I came up with an idea to re-imagine the mural "Stare." I wanted to deconstruct the elements of the mural but I also wanted to use colors to compliment the space. Octane has some beautiful warm browns all around their space and I wanted to work with those browns while still adding a pop of color. I came up with an abstracted version of the mural that was originally there. I presented the sketch and it was all approved. 

Not only was I allowed to over paint the old mural, I was also able to extend the mural to another wall. This created some fun challenges including painting over doors and lights etc. I love painting murals because I get to use an existing space to help enhance a space. I do my best to incorporate the space's elements into the mural, I opted to even keep the doors black but paint over some of the abstract forms & eyes on the door to create a continuos image throughout the two walls. Thank you Tony, Diane, John & Tyler for allowing me to repaint this mural. 

Octane is located at 1009 Marietta St. Atlanta, GA 30318

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