Meet the man who will create the new Greenway mural
As the leaves change, so, too, must the Rose Kennedy Greenway’s mural. On Friday, Iranian artist Mehdi Ghadyanloo will begin work on “Spaces of Hope,” the fifth work to grace the Greenway Wall at Dewey Square Park since its inception in 2012.
“Mehdi had always been on my radar as somebody who I thought would be really interesting to bring in,” said Lucas Cowan, the Greenway Conservancy’s public art curator, in a recent interview. “It was a natural fit, and it was a natural step to take in presenting a very different point of view on the mural than we’ve previously had.”
Cowan noted that the theme to which he and his team have hewed in shaping their 2017 curation — variations on “perspective,” visually or historically — meshed well with Ghadyanloo’s style. The artist’s public work in Tehran makes use of optical illusion and surrealist subject matter, while also reflecting his upbringing in the Middle East.
“I think he, in a lot of ways, is able to monumentalize and change environments that we basically move through on a daily basis, and take you from the mundane to the extraordinary,” Cowan said. “I wanted the public to get lost and investigate an image, and Mehdi does that so well.”
One of Iran’s most prolific practitioners of public art, Ghadyanloo has painted more than 100 murals throughout Tehran. Before pursuing painting at the University of Tehran, he was a farmer.
“When you feel the plants and see the blossoms grow you will look for a way to express it, and for me art was the closest and the most rewarding answer,” Ghadyanloo wrote in an e-mail from London. “Art is as free and humble as nature is, and is equally unexpected.”
Besides producing “Spaces of Hope” (his first American work), Ghadyanloo will also display a complementary painting at Boston City Hall. On Wednesday, he’ll introduce a retrospective exhibit of his work at Lesley University’s Lunder Art Center, with a public lecture, the first in a nationwide circuit.
The mural is a departure for the Greenway Conservancy, too, as the organization’s first solo curation for the 70-foot-by-76-foot wall. The 2016 mural, Lawrence Weiner’s “A Translation From One Language to Another,” was created in conjunction with the MIT List Visual Arts Center. Previous murals included curating help from the Museum of Fine Arts and the Institute of Contemporary Art.
But since the changing of the wall can touch nerves regardless of who picks the new one — the response to Weiner’s piece was especially varied at first — all involved are keeping the subject of the mural to themselves, in hopes of arousing greater interest.
“I want to project the utopias and dreams that are in my mind onto the city,” Ghadyanloo said of the work. “In May of this year I visited Boston and spent several days in the Greenway’s Dewey Square Park just observing the wall and the city and how people interacted with both of them.”
Cowan was even less specific.
“Staircases are involved,” he said, laughing. “I know that’s vague, but the whole point is to come out and see this unfold.”
While unforthcoming with the details, Cowan insisted that Ghadyanloo’s progressive style will further what he sees as the Greenway’s unique mission in a city steeped in history.
“We have a red line, the Freedom Trail, that leads you through the history of Boston,” Cowan said. “I’m working along with my counterparts here at the Greenway to push the notion that the Greenway is the green line that brings you through the new ideas and visions of what a 21st-century Boston can be.”
For Ghadyanloo, crossing the ocean to bring his own ideas and visions to the Greenway Wall isn’t as big a journey as it might sound.
“In the field of public art, your audience is the world, and all who see your art share communal feelings such as love, hope, and fear,” Ghadyanloo said. “Therefore art that originates from these sources will work in cities anywhere in the world, be it Boston, Tehran, London, and anywhere else.”