By BRITTANY REYES
Homicide Watch Chicago
For a West Coast artist, what started as a conversation on Facebook turned into a special work of art memorializing the lives of victims killed on Chicago’s 79th Street corridor last year.
The watercolor painting by Brian Meyer, an artist from San Diego, California, features protesters marching together, carrying signs that read, “Stop the Violence” and “Black Lives Matter.” In the foreground, among the leafy trees and dark buildings, the names of lives lost can be read in thin black paint.
Meyer said he began the project on Nov. 14, 2015, and finished the canvas on Nov. 22, right before attending a morning Mass at 1st Church of the Brethren in San Diego. He said church members “prayed for peace in a world gone mad. We prayed for Paris, for Mali, for Lebanon, for Nigeria, but we also prayed for Chicago.”
The piece, “79th Street Matters,” isn’t complete, however, as Meyer says with a heavy heart that he must now incorporate the additional lives lost on 79th Street since November.
“Sadly it is not finished and there are more names to add to it,” Meyer said. “If I just limit it to December alone, there isn’t enough room left.”
Meyer said he has worked on various projects to spread awareness about global violence, and the Chicago painting was a natural extension of his efforts. Before beginning the piece, however, he said he had no prior knowledge of how prevalent violent crime was in the city.
He had recently completed a painting honoring victims of the Paris terror attacks when he stumbled upon a Facebook post by Johndalyn Armstrong, explaining how Paris isn’t the only city losing innocent lives on a large scale.
Meyer said he spoke to Armstrong, not only about 79th Street, but about the sexual slavery of young girls in Nigeria.
In response, he felt compelled to act, and took to Homicide Watch Chicago to research the violence.
Meyer said while he hasn’t been able to visit the neighborhood in person, he was heartbroken by the stories he read, and wanted to lend his passion for art to make a powerful statement.
“There are so many [victims] and each one had a mother, a father, brothers and sisters. Some of these had no name yet and some were not even born yet,” Meyer said. “Even if it seems like it does not matter, like it’s but a drop in the ocean, remember the words of Mother Theresa: ‘But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop’.”