Margaret Kilgallen, along with her husband Barry McGee, was one of several American artists in the nineties (collectively known as the Mission school) creating a fusion of work drawing from street art, graffiti, folk art and installation art – with work feeling equally at home in the gallery as on the numerous non-commissioned murals she painted on city walls.
With a strong interest in folk traditions, learning amish quilt-making and bluegrass banjo at an early age, before studying studio art and printmaking in Colorado, Kilgallen then moved to San Francisco and began drawing inspiration from old hand-painted shop signs. She would graffiti freight trains, an old hobo tradition, using the tag Matokie Slaughter. During her time in San Franciso Kilgallen worked at the public library repairing old books, a job that informed her study of traditional typefaces.
These influences are clearly visible in her work, made even more striking by her unorthodox use of colour (her paint was often obtained for free from recycling centres where surplus paint was randomly mixed to create ugly brown and yellow tones that many would have deemed unusable).
Sadly Margaret Kilgallen was diagnosed with cancer while expecting her first child and, opting to forego chemotherapy to see the pregnancy through, died in June 2001 just a few weeks after giving birth to her daughter.
Her work, along with that of her husband and many of their contemporaries, is featured in the documentary Beautiful Losers. Margaret Kilgallen explains her work and influences in the video below.
Take the subway to downtown Brooklyn and turn the corner from the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station and you come face to face with “A Love Letter To Brooklyn” the latest piece from renowned street artist / sign painter Steve Powers a.k.a. ESPO.
Following on from “A Love Letter For You” and his work in Philadelphia where he took old, decrepit buildings and breathed new life into them with huge murals full of optimistic slogans and messages, Powers was commissioned to do similar with this Macy’s Parking garage. It was completed in October 2011.
Having seen photos of the work prior to visiting Brooklyn I knew what to expect, yet was still taken aback when I first encountered the piece. It was bold and striking but at the same time it was just a part of the downtown Brooklyn landscape and we, the small-town British tourists with cameras out and heads directed skywards, appeared to be the only people paying attention.
From browsing the blogs for information it seems that the piece has divided local opinion on its merits. As an outsider I was impressed and considering the building it adorns is fairly ugly, claims that the work is an eyesore seem a little unfair. I can only see it as an improvement.
Back from first trip to NYC. Truly a remarkable city and a difficult one to experience in a week. Thankfully we centred most of our activity to Brooklyn as we were located in the Greenpoint / Williamsburg area and, although we couldn’t not take time out to visit Central Park, experience Halloween in Greenwich Village, catch a band at The Bowery Ballroom and take the Staten Island Ferry, we generally kept visits to Manhattan to a minimum, so enamoured were we with Brooklyn’s charms.
Compared to the dwarfing city across the East River, Greenpoint and Williamsburg were reassuringly scaled-down with an industrial feel that could be considered offputting by some. But after exploring we found some gems in amongst the warehouses and the area soon became a comforting respite from the chaos of Manhattan.