New england literary news

When streets become artists’ canvases

Caleb Neelon

When streets become artists’ canvases

Remember the crouching child in the colorful pajamas and head-wrap? The mural that loomed over Boston’s Dewey Square for close to a year brought bright colors and an intriguing image to a rather sterile neighborhood of office buildings. A few commented that the child looked like a terrorist, but many Bostonians developed an abiding affection for the mysterious figure.

That mural — by Gustavo and Otavio Pandolfo, twins who grew up in São Paulo, Brazil, and are known as Os Gêmeos (Portuguese for “the twins”) — is among 700 illustrations in “The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti” (Yale University). Author Rafael Schacter, an anthropologist who was co-curator of the 2008 “Street Art” exhibit at the Tate Modern in London, describes the art of Os Gêmeos as “a magical realism that is always couched in the everyday.”

“World Atlas” also highlights Boston native Caleb Neelon, a muralist who has been influenced by time spent in Berlin, New York, and Nepal. Schacter calls Neelon’s work “a rich fusion of outsider art from around the world — a seamless blend of graffiti, folk, and indigenous art.” Locally, Neelon’s work can be seen on a residential building in Cambridge (above) and the Tobin School in Boston.


The Os Gêmeos mural in Dewey Square has been removed and what’s there now is an abstract mural in gray and white by New York-based artist Matthew Ritchie. Some observers view it as a retreat from the twins’ audacious work.

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Asked what Boston can do to foster a more lively street art scene, Schacter replied: “Institute rent caps! For me, the most vibrant art scenes in the world are locations where artists can afford to work without having to become ‘creatives’ . . . where they can concentrate on producing work that they love, rather than work that they have to sell.”

The Os Gêmeos mural on the building at the corner of Summer and Congress streets got people talking about the power of public art to transform a neighborhood and attract visitors. Let’s hope that Schacter’s book finds its way to the folks who oversee the installation of public art in the city. Some in Boston would like to see the Dewey Square commissions go to local artists, but why not open them to the world? Why not consider the celestial allegorical murals by Interesni Kazki, a duo from Kiev, Ukraine, or the gritty larger-than-life portraits by Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto? This book holds a world of possibilities.

Ephron collection

One of the gems in the new collection “The Most of Nora Ephron” (Knopf) is her previously unpublished 1996 Wellesley College commencement address. It’s vintage Ephron: funny and feminist. The journalist and film director, who died in 2012, remarked on how much women’s lives had changed since she graduated from Wellesley in 1962. “I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there,” she told the graduates.

Coming out

 “Jeeves and the Wedding Bells” by Sebastian Faulks (St. Martin’s)


 “Mirage” by Clive Cussler with Jack Du Brul


 “The Storyteller” by Jodi Picoult (Atria)

Pick of the Week

Betsey Detwiler of Buttonwood Books & Toys in Cohasset recommends “Vanished: The Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II” by Wil S. Hylton (Riverhead) “Of the more than 56,000 servicemen and women of World War II whose resting place remains a mystery, two-thirds lie somewhere in the Pacific. By focusing on the crew of one missing B-24 and the man who became obsessed with their fate, Hylton brings the story to a personal and poignant level.”

Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo .com.