Shepard Fairey’s Northside Mural of Aung San Suu Kyi May Be Gone, But There's Still Much to See

CityBeat's Steve Kemple considers the remains of Shepard Fairey's mural of the controversial Burmese leader

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click to enlarge The onetime site of Shepard Fairey’s mural at the intersection of Hamilton Avenue and Vandalia Street in Northside. - Steve Kemple
Steve Kemple
The onetime site of Shepard Fairey’s mural at the intersection of Hamilton Avenue and Vandalia Street in Northside.

On a brisk January afternoon, I visited the corner of Hamilton Avenue and Vandalia Street in Northside. Until recently, this was the site of Shepard Fairey’s mural of Aung San Suu Kyi, the controversial Burmese leader. Passersby gave me a wide berth while I fumbled with a box of matches, trying to light sticks of incense (“Fairy Dust” scent, obviously). As wisps of perfumed smoke were carried toward Hamilton Avenue, I considered the mural’s remains.

When it was pasted up in 2010, Suu Kyi was shown in the style of Fairey’s iconic Barack Obama “Hope” posters. It has since enjoyed several unauthorized additions, including dripping blood from the corners of Suu Kyi’s mouth — a reference to accusations that she presided over a genocide of Myanmar’s Muslim minority. In December someone covered the mural with a crude mess of gold and black, and the building’s owners removed the mural shortly thereafter.

Like Rauschenberg’s “Erased de Kooning Drawing,” traces remain visible — flecks of colored paper dot the wall. A ghost patina of white-ish film cover portions of the red brick, and pulp clings above in a square blast radius, reminders that things can be canceled but never undone. As the incense burned into the sidewalk, I couldn’t help but spot new forms in the noise: a cartoon dog; a bird with something in its beak... The mural may be gone, but there’s still much to see.

1699 Vandalia Ave, at the intersection of Hamilton Avenue and Vandalia Street, Northside. 

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