Public Art – What Does It Accomplish?

      6 Comments on Public Art – What Does It Accomplish?

That’s a much bigger question than this little blog will conquer, but I’ll etch the surface. Reporting from Winter Garden, Florida, I have yet one more post to share about our Mexico trip. Today’s blog is colorful photos of public art. That being said, if you are interested in hearing more about where we stayed, the places we ate, and where we did some “hanging out”, please check out the highlighted links to Woody’s Blogs.

If you’ve been following me, you may recognize I have a certain attraction to the arts. I concede my attraction may be in the most banal sense, but I’m OK with that. Often my focus is public art (=free), which includes bridges or architecture, statues, graffiti, or legitimate murals. In Mexico I found myself stopping short, “What the heck is this to supposed to mean!?” Then, asking myself, “WHY?”

cozumel murals

Eye See It, but I don’t get it?

With this backdrop, art isn’t required…maybe that’s why there’s a hole in her? Maybe the ocean is her pounding heart?

cozumel mural

Anatomically correct hearts are a significant icon in much of Mexican folk art

Therein lies one of my attractions to art. Trying to massage the “why” out. I have found myself thinking of a piece of art before sleep takes over, trying to figure out the “why”. If my hunch is right, the artist would be thrilled to know that, or at least know it was impactful enough for me to toss & turn about it.

The Writing on the Wall

From Paleolithic cave paintings in the Dordogne region of France, to the painted alter of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment, public art has been a tool to communicate to the masses. In Mexico, there is a rich history of using art, specifically murals, to unite and communicate a common story. In the wake of a divisive civil war (1910-1920), the government funded large-scale wall paintings in order to present an official, unifying history of Mexico. A history where its citizens would find themselves. Enter Mexican Muralism.


Viaje de los Ancestros (Journey of the ancestors by Autumn la Bohème)

maya mural

Loosely, the Mayan words translate, “from the naval of woman come the roots of all things.” (I’ve learned women were revered as equals in Mayan culture.)

Of course there were plenty of murals which border on a graffiti-like trajectory. You know, where you aren’t certain they were willfully agreed with. But, I gladly digest art in all its forms.

mural in playa

Pretty clear message here.

Russian Nesting Doll with breasts and tattoos

The Writing Is On The Wall

What does it mean?

Murals commissioned or endorsed by the business owner are often easier for interpretation. Luckily, the message is deeper than “please shop here”, and instead suggests “stop here”…. soak it in:

mural of balancing hearts

it’s about balance – maybe balance of the emotions of the heart

muñecas de trapo – a traditional style Mexican rag doll

modern maya mural

Homer Simpson gone Mayan – artist is known as Capitán Klavis


The main reason murals are prolific in this part of Mexico is due to PangeaSeed. This organization purports to “give the oceans a voice, one artwork at a time.” They host renowned artists from all over the world to descend on communities and paint murals to communicate ocean stories. These murals address the pressing environmental issues our oceans are facing. The message can be heart wrenching – that’s the power of public art. Let me share:

mural by aaron glasson

portion of FOR∑VER D✺LPHIN LOV∑ mural by Aaron Glasson

mural by aaron glasson

portion of FOR∑VER D✺LPHIN LOV∑, by Aaron Glasson

Aaron Glasson mural public art

close up

The message Aaron Glasson wants to emphasize is the wellbeing of dolphins who are held in captivity. Quintana Roo (a state in Mexico) has a staggering 20% of of the global captive dolphin population. With the mural, he encourages us to think twice before visiting one of these “Dolphin Shows”. Our money is better spent in keeping animals in the wild.

sea turtle mural public art in Mexico

Sea Turtle Conservation, by Dherzu Uzala

This artist is highlighting the importance of sea turtles. These graceful swimmers are easily spotted off the shores of the peninsula. They have roamed the earth’s oceans for the last 100 million years, and are an important link to marine ecosystems.

shark mural public art in Mexico

Rethink the Shark, by Franco Fasoli (JAZ)

public art mural

close up

Millions of sharks are killed annually for the global trade in shark’s fin. Less than 10 people die annually due to shark bite. Toilets, vending machines and falling coconuts kill more people than sharks. So, rethink the shark.

In Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this little walk around the Yucatán peninsula, and checking out some of the public art. Believe it or not, this was only a fraction of the murals I photographed, and there are countless I didn’t see. Muralism is alive and well in Mexico! I believe the primary purpose of public art is to invite debate, perhaps to discover more questions, rather than have answers. It also helps community spaces from becoming soulless, barren and without a story.

About Hali

Just a travel junkie trying to find my voice in the blogosphere. I enjoy sharing my photography and fast facts I learn in the places I travel through.

6 thoughts on “Public Art – What Does It Accomplish?

  1. Robert Scott

    We see quite a bit of that style of art here in New Mexico. In my days (daze) in college here in Las Vegas, we had a large mural of Che Guevarra in our Student Union Building. It was so “inspirational.” Anyhow, today is your Uncle Scotty’s birthday: #92.
    NM Scotts

    1. Hali Post author

      That’s sort of surprising to find that image sanctioned in a Student Union…. Long live the arts!

      And, happy belated to my dear Uncle Scottie! Let him know I’m sending a cyber hug.

  2. Dave Bilyeu

    Fabulous art! Thanks for sharing. Great subjects – much more interesting than endless paintings of ocean waves.


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