E!KONtheWA11©PROJECT in Ostia – Byzantine Iconography meets Street Art
As many of you who regularly read the blog know, I’ve become quite a fan of photographing street art in Rome and have even gotten to know quite a few of the artists. In particular I’ve been doing some photographic documentation of the work that Omino71 and Mr. Klevra have been doing around Rome (thus the Hope and Resurrection show in Pigneto), so when Mr. Klevra asked if I would be interested in photographing a church he was working on in Ostia, I was immediately on board.
To be fair, I had very little clue of what to expect when I first went out there in August. Ostia was the ancient port of Rome and is just 30 minutes by train, but is somewhere I really hadn’t visited. What I learned is that Ostia is very much its own city, with its own trials and tribulations. I had in my mind what one probably does when thinking of a church, a big, freestanding, elaborately decorated edifice, but imagine my surprise when Mr. Klevra showed me where he was working. The church of San Vincenzo di Paoli (Via Domenico Baffigo 65) is actually a quite humble space, located in one of the more run down sections of the city. In fact, the church isn’t a freestanding building, but rather the bottom floor of an apartment complex. No stained-glass windows, no marble sculptures, no frescoes. Nothing that one thinks of when thinking of a Catholic church in Italy, but here was a place in need of some help. The front of the church is a series of serrandas that render the entire facade completely unintelligible as a church. If you didn’t notice the small sign above the door or the priests milling about outside, you would have no idea.
And this is where Mr. Klevra comes in. As you may have seen in some previous pictures, he has quite an affinity for Byzantine iconography, and so he approached the parish about letting him paint the serrandas with different Byzantine icons (done in spraypaint, of course), thereby making the location unmistakable as a church. And, as a consequence, requalifying an urban area and giving it some much needed artistic beauty. This project, dubbed E!KONtheWA11©, is one piece of the work that he and Omino71 started together and have named E!KONtheSTR33T©.
The thing that struck me most in the four times I traveled to Ostia since August, was the sense of community. So many people would stop and watch as the work was going on, ask questions, and have opinions (lots of them!). It was truly amazing to see so many people interested in the paintings and to see the dedication that Mr. Klevra and Sweet Dream, who assisted, gave to the project. They’ve been working tirelessly on this project since July, giving their time and energy to give something beautiful to the church. I’m sure this is only the first of many interventions that will take place and hope that it will give people the idea that street art isn’t something negative, but can be, and often is, something to enhance the urban fabric.
I’ve posted some of my very favorite shots here, the top photo (my first done in HDR!) is of my favorite icon, St. Paul. The second is a great shot of Mr. Klevra on the last day of the project in front of (from the left) St. Peter and Joseph. Below that you will see one of the Madonnas that flank the doors and then one of the icons that inspired his vision. I highly suggest checking out the slideshow below to see the works in progress and more finished pieces.