Parade of Humanity U.S./Mexico (Visual Analysis)


Created from metal sheets welded together and then painted, this image shows 8 figures in a larger mural called “Paseo de Humanidad” (Parade of Humanity).  Created by three artists, Alberto Morackis, Alfred Quiroz, and Guadalupe Serrano, the mural illustrates the migrants who try to cross the border through the Sonoran desert.  The mural, which is larger than life, is attached to the Mexican side of the border wall in a city called Heroica Nogales.

The 8 figures shown here are lively with color and symbolism.  At the left, four figures can be seen walking north, while the right shows four figures walking south.  A metal bar separates the two groups.  The figure farthest to the left is painted in reds and oranges, as though on fire, with white decorative elements.  He carries a flag (that I have yet to identify) with an orange-red background, green and yellow stripes, and a central blue diamond.  The next figure is painted in cooler blue and green tones with flames curling from his mouth.  A yellow figure, with a single eye taking up his face, is decorated with Aztec inspired patterns.  Before them a woman carries a child on her back.  The woman’s hair is orange, her face is a skull, and her body is painted with large exotic flowers.  Snake like creatures painted in yellow, red, and black bands are painted on her legs.  Facing this woman, on the other side of the divide, is an elaborate man carrying the feet of a shrouded corpse.  His torso shows the face of a man, his arms and legs a combination of blue, orange, and red, and his head is painted blue with the image of red lips.  Behind him, carrying the chest of the body, is an orange man covered in peppers of red, yellow, green, and blue.  A woman follows closely behind.  Her face has been replaced with the statue of liberty and weapons cover her body.  A speech bubble can be seen leaving her mouth (though the words cannot be read at this time).  The final figure, is a man carrying a washer on his back.  He faces the viewer showing a prominent nose and linear mouth.  Screws are painted on his arms and legs.  Above the figures are milagros, or religious folk charms.  These charms are usually small and used for healing purposes or votive offerings, but artist Quiroz has created large scale versions to illustrate Mexico as it was before the Mexican-American war.  The  milagros range from identifiable objects such as a flag and a boot, to more obscure animal-like folk art.

To Exist is to Resist West Bank

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A Palestinian proverb says, “to exist is to resist.” This saying can be found in a number of works along the wall. In the image here, hands raise up towards the top of the wall.  The face of a child can be seen at one end of the mural.  Two animals of some kind can be seen on other side of the central hand.  The arms shoot up from the ground, detached from bodies.  Some show the hands with fingers splayed towards the sky.  One hand holds up a peace sign and is show chained up at the wrist.  Above the raised hands the words, “to exist is to resist” can be seen in red.  “Freedom,” also in red, can be seen below the chained hand.

The idea “to exist is to resist” can be seen on many parts of the wall and media throughout Palestine.  A similar image showing an woman uses the same sentiment.  A poster made for the Palestinian Nationalist Artists and Agencies uses a similar expression, “ I resist therefore I exist.”

Graffiti across the wall repeats this phrase.  The number of times it is seen makes it clear that the saying has become a rallying phrase in the struggle to take down the wall.  In terms of audience, this phrase is interesting because it is always written in english.  If it is a Palestinian “slogan” why not write it in a native tongue? In my opinion, this work speaks to just how global these artworks are meant to be.  The image was meant for an audience larger than the Palestinians who pass by it on a day to day basis.

Another thing I find interesting about this image is the children.  A lot of works use children.  I feel like this is two-fold. They symbolize hope because children are generally seen as innocent and pure from corruption, be that political or material.  At the same time, I think it is easy to feel sympathy for children because they have no control of the situations that they are placed in.  Again, I think this speaks to the international audience.  Most everyone can feel empathy for a child.

Keith Haring and the Berlin Wall


Keith Haring began painting on the streets.  Subways and subway terminals became the backdrops of his continuous linear figures and patterns.  In 1986, after reaching international acclaim and selling canvases for thousands of dollars, the Museum Checkpoint Charlie asked Haring to paint a mural on the Berlin Wall.  This mural covered 100 feet of concrete wall including parts on Western and Eastern territory.  Checkpoint Charlie was one of the most frequented passageways through the wall.

Yellow, red, and black were the colors used in Haring’s mural.  These colors represent the flag colors of both West and East Germany.  His organic figures lay horizontally on the wall, linked together by the connection of hands and feet.  Haring alternated red and black figures on the yellow backdrop, through which previous artworks can still be seen.  In his distinct style, the figures are surrounded by lines and detailed with circles.  Haring’s mural was meant to be show a unity between East and West Berlin.  The chain-linked figures were meant to identify with anyone who looked at the work.  He described it as a “political and subversive act – an attempt to psychologically destroy the wall by painting it.” It was not meant as a critique of East Germany in particular, but as an expression of support in general.

Haring’s work is interesting because it was both sanctioned and un-sanctioned.  While he was invited to paint at Checkpoint Charlie, he did not have authorization to paint on the part in East Germany.  A team from the Museum painted the 100 feet of yellow in the dead of night.  Haring then spent 6 hours completing the mural the next day.  He was watched by guards from both sides of the wall and would move back to the West Berlin side of the wall anytime he felt he was going to be arrested.  West Berlin guards even warned him of the potential for arrest via megaphone as they watched him hop across the border.  Highly publicized by the Museum, Haring had a steady string of onlookers as he worked.  He did interviews with both local and international media spreading the word and the photographs of his work.  Haring’s diverse and widespread audience had mixed reactions towards the piece.  Some believed it was a beautiful work of art while others condemned it for its subtle, or non-existent, political message.

Within a day of its creation, artists had “defaced” Haring’s work, although it must be kept in mind that he destroyed works as well, with grey paint and works of their own.  It is hard to say why this happened.  It may have been a reaction to Haring’s work or an individual’s desire to showcase their own.  The wall was a chaotic mix of continuously changing art and graffiti.  By the time it came down in 1991, Haring’s mural had completely disappeared.  It never phased Haring that his mural was “destroyed” by others.  He wrote once that his work, “is temporary and its permanency is unimportant. Its existence is already established. It can be made permanent by the camera.”

This further cements Haring’s wish to draw attention to the wall and the crisis.  He was not seeking to increase his own popularity, but rather to beautify the concrete barrier.

Antony Micallef and the West Bank Wall

Antony Micallef_West Bank

Antony Micallef was one of the artists enlisted in Banksy’s Santa’s Ghetto exhibition in 2007.  A British born artist, Micallef has won national acclaim for his works which he describes as “like watching a Disney movie which slowly turns into violent pornography.” During his time in Bethlehem, he drew inspiration from his surroundings.  Using pictures of children and families in Palestine, he completed four pieces on his return to London.  One piece, seen above, was also incorporated on the wall.

A young girl is shown from the waist up in this black and white painting .  She towers over two walls of what seems to be an enclosed space.  A teddy bear and soccer ball lie on the outskirts of the wall.  Graffiti can be seen on the surface of wall with what may be a reference to Banksy’s balloon girl near the top by the girls arm.  Wings sprout from the girl’s shoulders and dark make-up surrounds her eyes giving her the characteristics of Micallef’s work.  Her left arm reaches up to her face which tilts down slightly.  She peers up at the viewer, but does not shy away from making eye contact.

This image is a gold mine of symbolism.  The corner towers and concrete panels paired with recognizable imagery from the wall make it clear that this imprisonment is the West Bank wall.  The young girl, who has an aura of sadness, can see past the wall, but is still enclosed within it, which parallels with Palestinian sentiments towards the wall.  Her playthings lie just beyond her reach showing the separation of Palestinian from the land and people have been separated from as well.  This image is particularly striking because it plays on an internationally recognizable image of a child imprisoned and separated from the things that make a childhood.  While site specific in its depiction of the West Bank wall, this image could work on any barrier that feels like an imprisonment.  Any audience can understand this piece.

Paula Cox and the West Bank Wall

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Paula Cox, a native British artist, works with advocacy in everything she creates.  She uses organic shapes to create the figures in her works, offering little more than contour lines.  Much of her work focuses on woman and the political challenges they face on a daily basis.  Her work on the West Bank wall, created in the spring of 2004, is no exception.

After winning an arts council grant Cox spent time as an artist in residence in Palestine.  She lived with different families in different communities along the border wall noting the effect the Israeli occupation had on Palestinian women.  In her work Song for Freedom Cox creates a dual message.  She addresses the the struggles of Palestinian woman, as well as the general dislike of Israeli occupation via the border wall.

Paula Cox, Song for Freedom_W. Bank

The image shows two figures.  One, a man with a guitar and mustache, can be seen “standing” on the ground.  With his head tilted towards the instrument and the positioning of his hands, he is shown engrossed in the music he creates.  The figure to the right is female shown from the waist up, floating on the wall.  Her eyes are closed  and her mouth is open.  As the title suggests, she is singing.  Her left hand rests on her chest, suggesting the emotion in the song she sings.  Her hair drapes thickly around her face obscuring her chest.  A lit candle wrapped in barbed wire floats between the figures.

The two images show the work at different times.  The first is a photo taken by the artist in 2004.  The second shows the work less than a year later.  In such a short time the previously barren wall has been filled with works by others.  Someone has filled in the woman’s sleeve in deep red with a heart outlined in white.  Another heart overlaps her chest.  A graffitist has taken blue spray paint and created a giraffe over part of the man’s face.  That same person has added another animal figure above the woman’s head and the words, ‘non violent communication’ over the candle.  Others searching for a voice have interacted or overlapped with Cox’s work giving it a new look and environment that only strengthens the message of freedom of Palestine.  It does not, however, necessarily help her advocacy for females as it pulls the piece into a larger discourse about the wall which distracts from the female perspective.

Ron English on the Mexican Border

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Ron English is a self-described culture jammer.  He takes advertisements and subverts them creating satirical works of art such as his McDonalds campaign taking the famous Ronald McDonald and replacing him with a morbidly obese figure.  His image here lacks the pre-requisite advertisement to subvert, but still has a flare of satire.

Two mules, joined at the middle, appear to be stepping in opposite directions.  One is painted in the style of an American flag while the other is red, white, and green, the colors of the Mexican flag.  Each mule has one leg raised, about to step forward.  The profile faces reveal an eye that looks to the viewer.  The piece is a poster that was fixed to the wall with wheat paste, a popular trend in recent street art.

This work, located between La Joya and Penitas, Texas, is in a less trafficked area of the U.S./Mexican border wall.  One interpretation of the work from an interview with English says that, “the United States and Mexico are linked by historical destiny, but that mulish policies on both sides had created the current madness.”

This highly political piece requires background knowledge in order to understand what it is trying to do.  A basic understanding of the United States and Mexico’s political history and the building of the wall are necessary.  The idea that they are joined by destiny is represented by the literal attachment of the two mules and the idea of “mulish policies” is a play on the animal.

In thinking of the way English interprets the piece and where he chose to place it, I am plagued by the why.  What was English hoping to achieve?  He knew that there were no other works on this stretch of wall.  He told the interviewer part of his desire to put this piece up was that this was a “virgin wall.”  This is not the first wall to become his canvas.  English was invited to create a piece for the Berlin wall and then joined Banksy to paint the West Bank wall.  It is his belief that painting these walls makes people take notice.  Paint a wall and photographers will come.  English understands the importance of media in keeping a work alive even after it has been torn down by Border Patrol officials.  His aim was to attract a bit of attention to the wall by pulling a risky stunt (the crew had 2 minutes to get the piece on the wall before Border Patrol officials made their next round).

Banksy and the West Bank wall

Soldier and girl

In this image by British street artist, Banksy, a young girl searches a soldier against the wall as a weapon leans against the wall behind her.  The young girl, clad in a pink dress with a white ribbon, braided pigtails, and Mary Jane’s evokes the innocence of youth which contrasts with her actions.  She is seen searching an Israeli soldier, known by the uniform, as he stands braced against the wall.  The rifle, which has been removed from the soldier, leans against the wall just out of reach.

Banksy is an artist well known for his social commentary.  This image is just that.  Located on the Palestinian side of the wall of the West Bank, a barrier separating Israel and Palestine, this image supports Palestinian beliefs about the wall.  The security measures that Palestinians must go through in order to get to work on the other side of the wall are absurd to many.  The absurdity is shown here by mocking the system.  Banksy is pointing to the fact that an Israeli soldier has no more right to search Palestinians than the little girl does a soldier.

One of Banksy’s artistic strengths is his ability to clearly tell a story through an image.  One of the ways that he does this is by making the work relatable to the widest possible audience.  Here, the faces of both figures are hidden making them general, and therefore relatable, figures.  The little girl could be any little girl and the soldier any Israeli soldier.  Even i fa viewer did not know where this piece was or what nationality the soldier was, the archetypes of girl and soldier are interpretable around the world. However, when the space is considered, the image does gain a specific story.  The politics of the space strongly influences the way this work is read.

The rifle adds an interesting element to the work.  When Banksy was creating this work, he was approached by a local Palestinian man.  The original image showed the rifle casually lying at the feet of the girl and the soldier.  Upon seeing this the man told Banksy that his image did not make sense.  No soldier would leave a weapon at the feet of person they were searching.  Banksy quickly altered the image to better fit the cultural practices.  This story, which cannot be seen through visual analysis alone, exposes the different understandings people of various backgrounds have of the conflict and history of the wall.  Banksy, a western thinking graffiti artist, probably had little experience with Israel soldiers prior to his exhibition at the West Bank.  Though his image was globally understandable, it was not completely accurate to its social setting.

In terms of space, this piece is highly accessible.  Because of Banksy’s reputation, this piece has a wider audience than many works by anonymous artists.  The image found its way into books and newspapers worldwide.  A local audience can also access the image.  The West Bank wall is not difficult to see.  Soldiers do not require a large distance be kept between it and viewers, particularly away from high traffic areas such as gates.  Though accessible, Israeli military presence at the wall is strong.  The presence of other work in the space is difficult to discuss because a limited view is given by the photography.  There is some graffiti to the side which appears to be written in Hebrew.



Anonymous. West Bank.

Nash,Five Fingers Same Hand_West Bank


Phillip Nash. Five Fingers of the Same HandYear unknown. Israel West Bank barrier, Bethlehem.  Scanned from Against the Wall.

Banksy and the West Bank

Balloon girl

Banksy. Balloon Girl2005. Israel West Bank barrier, Bethlehem.  Wikipedia.