If I were to ask you what your favorite plant is, you’d most likely talk about a plant that bears gorgeous flowers or delicious fruit. No one ever says they like weeds. Quite the opposite, really – after all, our mothers consider weed plants as menaces that should be immediately plucked from the garden plot. We hardly ever really notice them; we don’t mind if we accidentally trod on them and reduce them to a sorry pulp on the pavement. Weeds, as far as society is concerned, do no matter. But Mona Caron, a Swiss artist who now calls San Francisco her home, begs to differ with her giant flower mural creations.
Of course, others have done giant flower murals before. And more often than not, the flowers featured on these larger than life works of art are conventionally beautiful and admired blossoms like roses and daisies. This is what sets Mona’s flower mural creations apart from the rest. Because instead of painting roses and daises on buildings, she paints giant versions of weeds instead. Mona has made murals in the United States, Europe and even Brazil! And Mona’s most recent mural is on the façade of the San José McEnery Convention Center in San José, California.
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?Limonium ?? Echoes of the land beneath these buildings, warping their rectilinearity. ? ? ? #nativeplant #marshrosemary #limoniumcalifornicum #urbanmacroherbarium ?? Brought to you by the City of San Jose? office of cultural affairs @sjculture, with the support of the San Jose Convention Center staff + @teamsanjose – thank you!? ? ? ?Art by @mona.caron? ?? photos by Mona and by Nick Kasimatis ? ? ? ?#mural #publicart #monacaron #arteurbano #arteurbana #limonium #sanjosemurals #sanjosepublicartprogram
Mona Caron’s giant flower mural creations celebrate humble hardy weeds
“Limonium: A Californian marsh rosemary, warbling the rectilinearity of the San José Convention Center.”
The larger than life mural on the San José McEnery Convention Center’s façade features a Limonium plant, a species of California rosemary. Mona’s 40-foot-tall mural covers 5 planes of the building with its lush, pastel-colored leaves. When you view the mural from a distance, it looks as though the Limonium has taken over the building. This is thanks to Mona’s impeccable attention to detail.
“From an indoor sprout to a young plant in the garage entrance cove, to a mature mother nature-plant by the street entrance, this 5-plane mural was commissioned by the City of San José Office of Cultural Affairs Public Art Program, and was installed with the support of Team San José and San José Convention Center Staff.”
“Limonium” is Mona’s 7th piece of work. It’s part of her ongoing series of larger-than-life botanical murals entitled “WEEDS project”. Prior to this, she painted a giant Cohosh in Brooklyn, New York on 3 differently sized buildings. Each and every mural that Mona creates have a distinct quality to them. They are not made solely for aesthetic reasons. She paints them to send a message to the world.
Her flower murals rise in symbolically perfect locations
According to the artist, she began the WEEDS project with a succession of stop-motion animations that featured her murals. “My first WEEDS were painted within a block of each other, on various rooftops in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district,” Mona shared. And as to why she chose the Tenderloin district as the site of her first WEEDS, she said it’s “the struggling area where the residents’ resilience stood out in the face of tremendous economic and social adversity”.
This quality of the Tenderloin district resonated with Mona’s advocacy in celebrating the often ignored plants growing in the crevices of the urban landscape. She explained that:
“They may be tiny, but they break through concrete. They are everywhere and yet unseen. And the more they get stepped on, the stronger they grow back.
This is a series of paintings of urban weeds, created as a tribute to the resilience of all those beings who no one made room for, were not part of the plan, and yet keep coming back, pushing through and rising up.”
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One of my earlier little #rooftop #weeds, w/ access allowed by the good folks at AlSabeel Masjid Noor Al-Islam mosque in San Francisco. #gentlegraffiti #resilience #breakthroughconcrete #fightadversity – #taraxacum #taraxacumofficinale #dandelion #pissenlit #chrottepösche #wildkräuter #phytograffiti #dentedileone #streetart #naturewins — check out today's radio story on Public Radio International "This World" – link on my home page
Thriving flora inspire Mona’s giant murals
“I look for clandestine plant life in the city streets,” Mona said. “When I find a particularly heroic specimen growing through a fissure in the pavement, I paint it big, at a scale inversely proportional to the attention and regard it gets.
Weeds reconnect earth to sky, life to its dreams. Against the hardest cement, against all odds, we too can find our fissure and keep pushing. That’s the way change happens.”
Mona’s giant murals certainly come close to the sky. And “A Weed in São Paulo” is Mona’s tallest work yet. The 13-stories-tall mural rises above a gas station’s roof and towers over a freeway. It now stands as a symbol for many things. Initially, “A Weed in São Paulo” was made to echo the local community’s intention of making the elevated freeway more environmentally-friendly. Then, somewhere along the way, Mona realized that her mural also echoed São Paulo’s “resources versus life-form” dilemma because of their water crisis.
Her mural in Union City highlights a community’s unity and history
Another notable mural of hers is “Taking Root” in Union City, California. This work is especially noteworthy because she was working on a barren piece of land. It became this way because industrial pollution destroyed the top layer of the soil. “This mural features the first wildflower that made it back,” Mona shared. Residents of the housing complex actually had a part in giving this extraordinary mural its character. She, along with the residents, incorporated the land’s history and the mutli-cultural residents’ ways of saying “welcome” in their vernacular language, in the roots of the mural.
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Welcome to #8, Oluff Nilssons Väg. You enter along the root. The door is at the sprouting point of this symbol of resilience, the dandelion, or “Maskros” in Swedish, “the rose of the worm”. A diverse community of sundry origins, cultures and subcultures, people all ages, enter this door every day, and are the sap feeding this plant. (See detail pics) I got the feeling that many in this place know something about overcoming adversity. But whether personal, community-wide, or global, it’s by reaching out that fresh life can break through the metaphoric cement we all face, keeping us down. Mati Zyra Zemlia, the earth fertility principle and biodiversity genesis folktale from Slavic lore, interpreted by this mighty dandelion for @artscape, says: Look up and find each other. We can reach higher, if we grow together, break through, and spread the seeds! #växatillsammans #growtogether #rootdown #growbeyond #systemchangeforclimatejustice #? With thanks to Artscape, the commune of Partille, Göteborg, to all the residents, especially the dozen+ whom I portrayed in the mural, and those who helped me brainstorm the banner wording and root imagery. ? Thanks also to @metso_art, Fredrick, Gustav, Majli, Tor, Daniel, Linnea, Jasper and the whole gang, and the Artscape artists who offered kindness and encouragement. #taraxacumofficinalis #dandelion #chrottepösche #dentedileone #dentdelion #dentedeleão #mural #muralart #streetart #artederua #largemural #monacaron #roots
Murals help give a particular place its identity because every muralist has unique motivations. Surely we can all agree that Mona’s mission almost touches on heroic, just like the weeds that she champions.
Her giant flower murals stand to teach us the importance of being aware of the things in our surroundings. She is teaching us that there is beauty in the world… all you’ve got to do is pay attention. We’re already looking forward to the next majestic masterpiece!