Jamie Bonfiglio works on her mural in Birmingham, Al. (Photo: Courtesy Jamie Bonfiglio)
Jamie Bonfiglio, an artist in Birmingham, Ala., paints and creates murals of bright, abstract portraits that celebrate African Americans and their artist heritage. In this occasional series, The American South spotlights muralists across the region.
The Artist: I was born in New York, but I grew up in Mobile. I began painting after college as an outlet from a job that I dreaded. I’ve always been good at drawing what I see since childhood. But I picked up some acrylic paint, brushes and a few canvases in my 20s and never looked back.
The Work: Painting a mural is invigorating. It’s therapeutic. A mural, it’s for a whole neighborhood, the entire city, visitors and natives. To me, this particular mural represents revitalization and representation, specifically for the city of Ensley. Ensley has such a rich history of musical legends and African American memorials and keepsakes. Hopefully, I will be able to contribute even more artistic revitalization to the community, because art changes things and lifts spirits. And I wasn’t given this gift to keep to myself.
Location: Gilmer Drug at 413 19th St. Ensley, Birmingham, Ala.
Art During a Crisis: Public art captures these moments in history. But it also exposes how little progress has actually been made around race relations in the land of the free. Murals and other forms of public art have given some people opportunities to gather and express themselves, to take pictures for memories with their families. Others have taken these creations as opportunities to show racism, to gaslight the frustration and to be dismissive of too many people’s pain. Nevertheless, good art is often controversial and it usually initiates conversations and dialogue, so maybe this is what was meant to happen. If only more people listen.
Find Bongfiglio’s latest work on her Instagram account @iam_jamietheartist.
Editor’s note: The earlier portion of this interview was conducted before the coronavirus pandemic.
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