All Around the Parque

Imagine having photos of your life’s accomplishments enlarged to life size and posted all around a major city’s main square — a free, outdoor exhibit for all to see.

Hard to imagine, isn’t it?

Well, for my old friend from New York, the world-famous street art photographer Martha (“Marty”) Cooper, who turned 76 last month, this sort of honor has become almost unexceptional.

Right now, and for at least the next two months, there is a breathtaking exhibition of four decades of Marty’s work – documenting the ever-expanding graffiti and street art scene all around the world – on the outside fences surrounding the beautiful, vast Parque Alameda, in the city’s historic centro, in Querétero, Mexico.

A total of 101 of Marty’s most iconic photographs, dating from 1978, were enlarged to roughly 5 ft. square and mounted on weather-resistant vinyl for everyone to enjoy.

To show the scale of the posters in this exhibit: a woman near the fence of Parque Alameda, beside Marty’s photo from Soweto, South Africa, 2013

This project, titled “Evolution of a Revolution by Martha Cooper,” was the brainchild of Edgar Sanchez of PaxUrbana in Querétero, who also produced the outdoor installation “El Agua es Una” (Water is One) last year at Querétero’s Cultural Center (CECEQ).

(Please scroll down to “Search the Archives” to see my post, “Martha Cooper: Rock Star in the Realm of Street Art,” published last April 16, for my full story on this event and more on my friendship with Marty.)

As Edgar wrote in the introduction to this new endeavor, “This exhibition shows the explosive energy of the legendary Martha Cooper, known globally as the godmother of graffiti. … With this exhibition we want to reveal to Querétero and its graffiti writers the brilliant place that Mexican talent has achieved in the world.”

2016 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
1980 — graffiti writer Dondi’s work on a subway train in the Bronx
A detail of Marty’s 1980 photo of the Dondi train (above)

I was able to visit Marty, as well as Edgar and his partner Sigre from Estonia, plus  photographer Jaime Rojo from Brooklyn Street Art, last week in Querétero and see the magnificent exhibition first-hand. Marty had been, as ever, at far-flung street-art events in recent weeks, including India and Haiti, and was on her way to Spain following these few days in Mexico.

“I can’t keep up with you,” I told her.

“Sometimes I can’t keep up with myself,” she confessed to me.

At one point, Edgar took us to a “surprise” that local street artists were painting in Marty’s honor: a city-block-long wall, outside of a grammar school, painted to resemble an old New York City subway car, the kind Marty documented in her first book, considered the international graffiti writers’ bible, Subway Art (Thames and Hudson, 1984).

The wall in QRO painted to look like a NYC subway train
Marty posing in front of the “train” meant to imitate Dondi’s art

Although she may be old enough to be these young Mexican street artists’ abuela (grandmother), they all unabashedly adore her, as all street artists do all over the world, no doubt because, with her devotion to this art form as expressed in her photography, she preserves their ephemeral artwork for posterity. She also shares it on Instagram with her hundreds of thousands of followers. She is their queen, and she basks in their love. It’s a beautiful thing to see.

Marty (center) and Edgar (far right) with the local street artists who painted the “train,” sitting beneath a portrait of Marty done by one of these artists

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Just a reminder: The deadline for submitting the survey/questionnaire I wrote about in a recent WOW post (“How You Can Be Heard,” March 16) is coming up! You have until April 30 to share your thoughts regarding retirement for possible inclusion in a forthcoming book. To follow through, go to: . The authors of this book-to-be would be so happy to hear from you – if you haven’t responded already.

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