On A Wire: Baltimore Artist Installs Tribute To Elijah McClain Near Colorado Capitol
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, a piece of art appeared dangling from a traffic light near the Colorado state Capitol. The wire sculpture was a tribute to Elijah McClain, who died several days after an incident with police and medics in Aurora last year. The artwork was a gift from Baltimore artist Reed Bmore, who stopped in Denver on a cross-country trip doing what he called “rogue art installations” along the way.
KUNC arts reporter Stacy Nick spoke with Bmore about his work, his methods and his message.
These interview highlights have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Stacy Nick: How did you get into wire art in the first place?
Reed Bmore: It was just something I always did as a kid and then as I graduated out of college and wanted to do something a little bit more artsy — I always gravitated towards wire as something that I used. It’s easy to travel with, super cheap and just an amazing material.
I'm sure that's helpful with this cross-country trip that you're on right now. Have you found it kind of inspiring some of your work as well?
When I go into cities, you figure out what the people like. And almost as an exploratory effort, every time that I stop and make a piece, I always gain some sort of perspective of the day in the life of the people in that area. It gives me more content and context to other things that just forward my work, other conversations to have and other subject matters to carry over.
Tell me a little bit about the piece that you did with Elijah McClain, with the violin and the cat next to him — it speaks so much to who he was.
Being an artist in Baltimore, I'm not shy to the intricacies of police brutality and the movements that have been happening. Because where I am and where people are in my area, you can't ignore it. It's just right outside your front door. So in that tome, I really took it to heart to try to install a piece in a city where it pulled some solidarity into the movements that have been occurring in 2020 onward from 2015 with the uprisings that we've had from the Freddie Gray protests.
So I guess that's where I wanted to lean into, just leaving a memento, letting people know that other artists and individuals outside of the state still think about this and are actively using what we do as a way and a catalyst to talk about the issues. I hope to portray this through my artwork and through the essence of what street art is. That it's an individual putting the pieces up, trying to have a conversation.
And I think it's within our own responsibility, if you're creative in whatever aspect, to express that and try to have those uncomfortable conversations about what's going on. And I think that's extremely important for us as artists now living in our modern 2020 era. What can we do with our hands and what are the little things every day that we can do to bring light to these situations in the most honest and respectful way?
Can you tell me a little bit about the installation process? I'm guessing it's difficult, but also probably very quick, because this is, as you say, it's kind of a rogue installation process.
Obviously, the later it is the easier it is. But the way that I designed it, it goes up and over on the wire in minutes. And even if it is a populated area, it barely even gives people enough time to take out their phones and record. So, I'm pretty comfortable doing it at all times of day. And I've even installed in front of authority figures like police officers. And they stop and humbly ask questions about the process.
It's not as vindictive as everybody thinks, or malicious. It's just expression. Once you actually have the conversation with people and let people know that you're here as a human, then they put down their guards and are more willing to actually sit down and have a conversation about it.
How long do you think they stay up? Do you know? I mean, what happens to them?
I put them up knowing fairly well that they could be gone the next day. But all the time and effort that I put in the studio to make the pieces, that’s the performance piece itself. And afterwards, if it's left to be appreciated, I love that. If not, that’s just the beast of doing what I do. And I've already made peace with that.
This conversation is part of KUNC’s Colorado Edition for Dec. 1. You can find the full episode here.