“I’d like the public to ponder the messages in the work, if only for a pause,” said the artist Lmnopi, who recently installed “Nepal 2015” on the Avalon Chemists building at Second Avenue and Houston. “I hope to stir up some emotions to remind people that they are alive, just in case they’re having a numb moment. I’d also like to let kids know that they are not invisible and that their lives matter.”
With her look of “placid defiance,” the girl in “Nepal 2015” is definitely no longer invisible. Lmnopi took a week and a half to paint the mural with house paint on poly tab strips in her cramped apartment. She glued them to the brick wall with permission from its curator, Steve Stoppard, a street art and graffiti lover who rotates the work of a different artist every three months (remember the bunny mural?).
This time, fluffy woodland creatures weren’t the source of inspiration. Instead, it was the earthquakes in Nepal that killed thousands of people in late April and left others bereft of basic necessities.
“When natural disasters hit, kids, who are already vulnerable due to poverty, are hardest hit. Many of them lose their parents and end up in orphanages. Some are in orphanages even though their parents are still alive because they got separated in the ensuing chaos,” said Lmnopi. “This mural is also about climate justice. Geologists have shown a direct correlation between earthquakes and tsunamis and global warming. At this point, I am really not sure we can do much to stop it, but at least we ought to bear witness to the effects of it rather than bury our heads in the sand.”
For Lmnopi, the driving force behind her art is activism — she uses art as a visual expression of protest, sympathy and anger. She has a history with the Occupy Wall Street movement that stems to its grassroots beginnings and is an activist for many other causes. Though the artist may use her talent to raise awareness of important socio-political issues, that’s where she wants the attention to end. Her childhood in the Adirondacks and current residence in Bed-Stuy are some of the few nuggets of personal information she was willing to disclose. Lmnopi declined to give her full name or have her picture taken for the publication. “I don’t like my photo taken because it’s not about me, it’s about the artwork,” she said. If you do ever read her full name, it may be in a police blotter. “I’ve been arrested more times for civil disobedience than for street art, but then again I view street art as a kind of civil disobedience, so it’s all the same to me.”
An artist since she was small, Lmnopi was first introduced to art by her mother, who was also a painter. In 2005, Lmnopi graduated with her BFA in painting and printmaking and has been trained in oil and intaglio painting. Despite her more classical education, Lmnopi turned to street art in 2009. “I wanted to expand my audience beyond the gallery scene,” she explained. “I consider myself an emotional landscape painter.”
And emotion is what she evokes. “Activism is the only reason I paint,” Lmnopi said. “What other reason is there?”
You can see more of her work on June 13 at the 6th Annual Welling Court Mural Project in Queens, where she will paint a new piece. She also has a show at Women, an event on June 12 hosted by the League of Women Voters, and a group show at Hipster Fascism, which takes place on June 20 at The Fridge gallery in Washington, D.C. You can also track her here.