What's Your Sign? - Five Years of Underhill Walls

Written by Emma Jones

Prospect Heights is not a neighborhood of stick-n-poke donning college kids or cafes that sell oat milk CBD lattes. It’s what some call ‘grownup Brooklyn,’ or what in real estate is sometimes referred to as a ‘stroller neighborhood,’ with tan brownstones and posters on bakery windows advertising maternity yoga and piano lessons.  “Everyone made this dream a reality. I’m proud to be a part of Prospect Heights,” Underhill Walls curator Jeff Beler proclaimed, as DJ Marcus Glitteris blasted a techno-infused “YMCA” around the corner of St. John’s Place.

Echoing the original Underhill line-up, the five year anniversary featured a diverse roster of local artists painting their visual interpretations of zodiac signs.

The weekend of October 17th marked five years of Underhill Walls, Beler’s mural project on the intersection of Underhill and St. John’s along the northern corner of Prospect Park. Echoing the original Underhill line-up, the five year anniversary featured a diverse roster of local artists painting their visual interpretations of zodiac signs.

Underhill Walls proves that street art can transcend the boundaries of class, and that street artists can be family-friendly. Some of the most tender moments of the day were local kids coming up to artists. “I like to make pictures in crayon,” a little girl in a brightly colored puff jacket said, looking up at My Life in Yellow.

Some of the most tender moments of the day were local kids coming up to artists. “I like to make pictures in crayon,” a little girl in a brightly colored puff jacket said, looking up at My Life in Yellow.

Yellow, now one of the most recognizable street artists on the scene, painted her first mural at Underhill Walls when Beler asked her to fill in for a sick artist. Even before becoming a staple of the walls, she had watched friends like Dirt Cobain paint the walls. For this anniversary edition, Yellow and Joshua Bouman AKA Merch Daddy collaborated on a “Cancer” piece. Yellow and Bouman crossed paths at the Momentum Education Leadership program. “We just hit it off,” Yellow said.

 

The Cancer mural was Bouman’s first. Bouman, a graphic designer by trade, uses a minimal aesthetic in his art where the colors really pop, in contrast to Yellow’s monochromatic art. “I kept saying it needs more yellow, and he kept saying more rainbow,” Yellow said. “The yellow’s all her, the rainbow’s all me,” Bouman added.

Paulie Nassar had only been in town for his father’s birthday, and Beler asked him last minute to fill in for an absent artist to paint the Gemini portion of the mural. “I’m a Gemini, and I just happened to have an afternoon before I drove back to Florida, so I guess the universe wanted it to happen,” Nassar said, while passing out his signature neon-colored cephalopod stickers. Nassar’s interpretation of Gemini had two jellyfish painted in a two-tone pink and purple color scheme, highlighting the duality the sign represents.

Though the theme of Zodiac might not immediately bring to mind politically charged art, Megan E. Watters chose to interpret Libra through the lens of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing. Though, as Watters noted, Ginsburg was not a Libra, she was “incredibly fair and just.” Watters used the typography usually associated with Ouija boards because she thought it looked cool and felt it fit the theme of the zodiac.

Though the theme of Zodiac might not immediately bring to mind politically charged art, Megan E. Watters chose to interpret Libra through the lens of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing. Though, as Watters noted, Ginsburg was not a Libra, she was “incredibly fair and just.”

The theme enabled artists to bring their signature styles and imagery to their sign. Early Riser, who is known for her bright and provocative style often featuring her dog Oscar and pigeon Ronny. She interpreted Pisces as two dogs sniffing each other’s butts in fish and shark costumes, because she said that’s what the symbol always looked like to her. Calicho Arevalo, who was painting Sagittarius, said that he was not actually a Sagittarius but that drawing the figure was a good challenge because he usually paints animals and being assigned the human figure was an interesting opportunity.

This five-year anniversary celebration is the kind of outdoor gathering that feels communal in a way that’s hard to achieve during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the age of social isolation for safety, it’s hard to find a balance between keeping your distance and the naturally communal quality of art. Curator Jeff Beler made sure to incorporate all the CDC standard guidelines such as wearing masks and ensuring artists sanitized their hands and materials. Despite the necessary precautions, the live painting event evoked the serenity and good vibes of a pre-COVID world. With a live DJ set playing a spritely set of Madonna, N.W.A, Michael Jackson, and eighties dance hits like “Don’t You Want Me,” it was a perfect outdoor fall day to spend making art in the community.

To learn more about Jeff Beler and the Underhill community, check out our feature article in our latest print magazine – Issue #3 – Community & Culture.