This year at the Weatherspoon Art Museum at UNCG, a new mural has been put on display titled “Pause and Breathe, We Got This.” This piece was created by artist Sheena Rose of Sheena Rose Inc., an artist who graduated from UNCG in 2016 from the MFA Visual Arts program and won the 2020-2021 Distinguished Alumni Award for her work.
On 6th Avenue Corridor, Iowa, she designed the bus stop murals and made the city its own work of art. She has been a part of many biennials internationally including ones in Havana and Venice. Rose is a native of Barbados and lives and works there. For this article, I had the pleasure of meeting with Juliette Bianco, the director of the Weatherspoon Art Museum to talk about this new mural.
The mural was commissioned by the Weatherspoon, therefore they paid Rose to create it for the museum. This piece is different from other works Rose has done before as it was made entirely digitally and was the first one that Rose had made this way. Bianco says that this is one of the goals of the museum to not only help fund projects for artists but to also help in the progression of their creative journey. Rose lives in Barbados, and due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the museum and she had to communicate through video chat which was a challenge and this was why the piece was made digitally. Although it may be a digital piece, Rose was able to create a truly wonderful work of art that now stands in the atrium of the Weatherspoon Art Museum on the UNCG Campus.
Bianco hopes that the piece will stay up for a long time, aiming for it to stay there through the current semester and into the next. One of the most important features of this mural is that it was made during COVID-19, specifically while Barbados was in lockdown. The work’s name “Pause and Breathe, We Got This” alone tells the viewer exactly what Rose was thinking upon making the piece. Bianco pointed out that the title gives the piece an interactive feature as the words “Pause” and “Breathe” as well as the comma, allow one to exercise what the words mean by taking a deep breath as they view the mural. The piece, overall, is a piece created out of the Pandemic. The current events that take place within society help to inspire and assure artists of a strong connection with others as well as with themselves.
Bianco and I had a conversation about the piece. The first thing we noticed was that it was colorful, but the colors on the bottom half of the mural are overall more solid and darker than those near the top. Not only this, but the shapes on the bottom were more individualized and separated. We interpreted this as a metaphor for people in that many were separated and apart during the Pandemic. As one looks to the top of the mural, one can see that the colors are brighter, warmer, and they mix together to create wonderful collages: which could represent people coming together as a community as the Pandemic continues. Hence the title of the piece, “Pause and Breathe, We Got This”. She is wanting the viewer to use the painting to reflect on the society now as well as the hopes of what it will be as the Pandemic continues and hopefully ceases.
The mural is also asymmetrical, allowing one to feel that the situation of the Pandemic itself is asymmetrical, something different that is causing life to be off-balance. Bianco specifically pointed out that the mural has many forms of repetition, one of which is a sort of organic form. She interpreted this as a way to see the very fabric of life within the work. Bianco says that Rose was particularly thinking about how we as humans are going to come out of this situation. I personally went to the Weatherspoon to gaze at this mural and I felt the impact it had on me.
When standing in front of the mural, I did what the title said; I paused and breathed. There was a moment of escape as I gazed at the mural and felt the colors popping out at me as my breath released. The mural is huge, and the obstacles of the Pandemic, now, seemed to be replaced with this mural of hope, seeing the colors mix at the top and create community with one another. In the atrium, there was a little bit of light from the outside coming down through the center of the mural. In the top center, there is a small area of less color and with the light shining on it, there seemed to be true light coming out of the top of the mural creating a radiating sense of hope and desire.
I stood there for several minutes taking in this immaculate work of optimism and color, hoping that when I stepped out that it wouldn’t end. But the work speaks for itself in its title. Just pause, it says. Reality continues around us, and if one escapes too much or too long into a hopeful reality, then one is not able to bring hope to the true reality of one’s existence. But if you go to the museum, you should be able to have your own experience with this mural, and I hope you do. I want to thank Dr. Juliette Bianco for meeting with me and helping me with this article.
For more information on Sheena Rose and her business go to https://www.sheenaroseart.com/