SHE floats 100ft high up in the air, her shadow cast on the wall of a Philadelphia building. This marvellous mural is the first in a new series by acclaimed art activist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh.
Unveiled last week, it has special significance for the Brooklyn-based artist – because not only is it a self-portrait but it’s also the very building in which she lived when she was 17 years old.
Already becoming a firm favourite on Philly’s art trail, attracting local and tourists alike, the mural goes by the name of Flight, and – like most of Tatyana’s work – has an underlying message.
Flight, says the artist, is a series of life-sized and large-scale murals featuring realistic paintings of Black people suspended in the air, floating above societal violences.
The idea that enslaved Africans could take flight, liberating themselves, crops up many times in Black mythology dating back even before the scandal of American slavery.
Each mural is accompanied by text that references Black authors and the subject’s own words. The Philly mural, sited at 13th and Spruce in Center City, has personal relevance, too.
“This painting, 100ft in the air, is so special to me,” Tatyana explains. “I lived in the building it is painted on when I was 17 years old. I’ve long wanted to create this series, and join the long list of Black artists and writers who have used the mythology of Black folk flying in their work.”
“I talk with groups and individuals about the idea of flight, what it means to them and how we relate to it today,” says Tatyana. “These conversations are followed by photo sessions, from which the murals are based.”
At the bottom of the mural, an inscription reads: “I let go of what has weighed me down. Light as a feather, I ride the wind. Like Black folks have always done. Flying free above the structures built to confine us.”
Tatyana works primarily in oil painting, public art, and multimedia installations, and was responsible for the Stop Telling Women To Smile book and anti-street harassment campaign. She is from Oklahoma City, born to a Black mother and Iranian father.
Pictures used in this post are by Steve Weinik, Staff Photographer for the Mural Arts Philadelphia. To learn more about the Flight project, and other work by Tatyana, head to tlynnfaz.com.