Better than: Anything that's ever happened at your house.
Lots of people have art in their homes. Many of them have art outside of them too. But few have murals like the one Shane Watt painted on the back of Andie Sweetswirl's house in Fort Lauderdale.
After two months of planning, drawing and painting, Sweetswirl, a longtime booker, DJ, and show promoter in Fort Lauderdale and Miami, turned the mural's unveiling into "Myland: A Mural Exhibition" and invited South Florida into her home. Literally.
The free Saturday night gathering featured more art from Watt, and pieces from TONX, TJ Brown, Thatiana Reid, and Jen Locane, live art by Paul McEnery, and performances by Suede Dudes, Rebel, and Orlando's Wet Nurse. Chipotle also gave away tacos, flipping on its ear the free beer often found at similar house parties. Those that wish they could be as ambitious and far-reaching as Myland.
Sweetswirl bought the house two years ago, constructing a gazebo and fire pit, and planting gardens around the backyard. The house was beige at the start, and two outside walls were painted blue until the desire for more hit Sweetswirl.
Watt and Sweetswirl started talking during an event at Rollingstock graffiti gallery in Fort lauderdale that included several of his pieces and his first mural, and she half-jokingly said he should come paint her house.
"Why would you have a blank wall and not want something to be on it," Sweetswirl said as her yard started to fill with people on Saturday night. "He was like, 'sure, cool. I have to leave in a few days, but I'll come back in a year and do it."
Unassuming, friendly, and shockingly genuine, not only about his art but the crowd he seems to have easily fallen in with over several years of visiting the South Florida, Watt spent the night speaking with most of the 100 or more people who came and went during the course of the six-hour event.
The piece took about two months from conception to completion, even though he thinks it could have been done in a much shorter period of time. But fleshing out the plethora of references and ideas in the piece seems to have done it well.
Like many of the topographic maps Watt has been commissioned to do, the sprawling skyline on the house's back wall is filled with references to the lives of everyone involved. Most of those references come from either Watt or Sweetswirl herself, but the community of artists which both spend with are all represented on the wall.
"What I do is try to mash up different places to create a story," Watt said. "So I'll take references from their lives, what they like, what they don't like, and then I'll make the piece from there. In this case, it was just taking it on a larger scale and putting it on a wall."
Watt explained that over the two months of drawing, he had to figure out "the things that Andie likes and dislikes. What does she do? What are her interests? And take all that in and incorporate that with me, because I put my personal references into the maps as well. There's 40 some-odd people referenced in there, just friends of mine. I've incorporated Andie's friends, and roommates, and her cats, and South Florida in general -- the things I've seen and the places I've been."
During the day, the painting is somewhat mesmerizing, because of the depth allowed by acrylic and oil paints used to fill in Watt's marker drawings. It is so dense with detail and information, from the face taking up the back door of the house to each section of building in the mural, it's easy to get lost trying to wind your way between each of the structures he included.
At night, it takes on a whole new life with the spotlights and Christmas lights hung off the side of the roof and canopy covering the back porch. The window into Watt's mashed up view of South Florida and Montreal. Even Sweetswirl was surprised, sometime around 11 p.m., when she looked toward the mural from the far back of her yard, and could have mistaken the scene for any of the outdoor venues in South Florida taking advantage of the cool early spring weather.
From the psych-punk of Suede Dudes, to full-on garage punk of Wet Nurse, and electro-rock of Rebel, a crowd of engaged friends who all knew each other by some tangled web of music or art made it feel like a club as well.
Because of the time and involvement Sweetswirl has had in music and art over the last decade or so, she is friends with a wide swath of creative people in Fort Lauderdale and Miami. The positive vibe of the party, and utter amazement at Watt's mural, filled the yard beyond the crowd that showed up.
This wasn't lost on Watt, who was aware that he'd been surrounded by people raving about the mural and other pieces hung on the backyard fence. Sitting in front of Sweetswirl's house, talking about his time in South Florida, and the interested, motivating, creative people he spends time with when he's here, Watt could barely finish saying how great those people are without being stopped mid-sentence for congratulations or random goodbyes.
It'll be a shame if somebody doesn't convince him to paint a mural on somebody's house next year. South Florida could use a lot more of this stuff and, hopefully, somebody told him about a wall they know of that needs painting.
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