The original concept for We the PeopleII began late last fall, at a time when many people were questioning what exactly our collective identity as “Americans” means. In a nation so large and so diverse and in certain ways so divided, what do we have left to share that serves to connect us all? Where did we come from, and what community do we belong to? What does it mean now, “We the People of the United States”?
To explore these questions of identity and belonging, the main premise of We the People II is to capture the eyes of people who live, work, or pass through the Leather District. Honing in on the eyes while using a playful approach for the rest of the painting is a concept I explore throughout my work. A person’s gaze is so powerful– and can often say more than a mouth. Because the mural is located in a busy commuter space, and is viewed by many from a distance, my goal was to use the intensity of staring eyes to immediately slow people down, creating a pause in their routine while they are sandwiched between two whirling streets. The characters I’ve developed around the eyes mirror those who inhabit this bustling space; they are inspired by the interactions and moments I’ve witnessed here. Each character is waiting, chatting, or on the move. When stitched together, a larger portrait of the community emerges. Over the course of a month while creating this mural, I approached all types of strangers, asked to photograph their eyes, and then painted them along this 140-foot span. Through this simple act, my intention was to reflect the diverse community of downtown Boston. To my surprise, people often approached me, and returned more than once, asking “is my eye up yet?” I hope that these personal connections create a sense of ownership for the people I met or who watched it evolve. Despite being strangers before, the mural became the glue between us.
These eyes – the entire mural – belong to people who may never meet one another, but who already share a bond by walking the same sidewalk, sitting on the same bench, or buying bananas in the same store! “We the People II” serves as a visual connection between members of this unique community. Don’t be afraid to get up close. I encourage you to explore the full length of the wall from parking lot to crosswalk!
Mia Cross is a Boston-based painter and sculptor. She received her BFA from Boston University in 2014 with a double major in painting and sculpture. Mia’s current work explores the figure, color, and narrative.