Roosevelt and Wabash

Roosevelt and Wabash

His name is Flyboy.

I added this photo to a gallery on my website that highlights some of the incredible murals I have seen in the South Loop this summer.  I was particularly intrigued by this little guy with goggles.  You can say I’m moved by it, literally.  In fact, I walk an extra couple of blocks away from my destination each morning in order to look at it.

But like most public art, there is a bit of mystery surrounding it.  There is no plaque accompanying it like you would find at a gallery or museum that lists the name of the artist, the title of the work, and the backstory.

I was drinking coffee and flipping through a magazine today and found an article about the artist, Hebru Brantley, who creates this colorful character.  Brantley’s basis for his work is discussed in an interview led by Lupe Fiasco for the summer edition of Michigan Avenue, as part of the magazine’s Art of the City/Emerging Artists spread.

According to Brantley, Flyboy is influenced by pop culture in a contemporary context and the Tuskegee Airmen in an historical context.

Kind-of like Buzz Lightyear meets Joe “Lightning” Little.  No wonder I found this character so inspiring.

An interesting exchange in the interview is when Fiasco asks Brantley to name his favorite hangouts around Chicago.  He admits he only has a few spots.  “(W)hen I do get out of this shell that I live in…I do enjoy just really any point at the lakefront.”

I can relate.  For the past year and a half, I have dedicated myself to writing a novel.  The creative process is often very isolating and all-consuming.  No time for lunch with girlfriends, no time for hot yoga, no time for mani-pedis.  I often forget to eat.  When my husband comes home and asks what I have been doing all day, I look up from my computer, blinking.

How can I explain that I spent all day wandering around in a make-believe universe with imaginary friends?

But Hebru Brantley understands.  He lives in a shell.  Self-confined to a studio in which he hones his craft and is fueled by creative thoughts and a deep desire to be a “respected, well-established visual artist.”

As I begin the arduous process of becoming a published author, I look to Flyboy and to Hebru Brantley for daily inspiration.

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