"Pave the Way"

Artist Statement

Photo by Ed Morykwas

Detroit Painter & Performance Artist

Birmingham Shopping District Construction Barricade Contest 

Mural photos by Paul Lee

As soon as I knew the theme of the contest, "Pave the Way," I felt it was important to highlight women in the arts and sciences that I consider to be inspirational. The three women pictured are paving the way for the young girl with her back turned, as they are each the first woman to have their individual achievements.

Misty Copeland is the first African-American female principal dancer of the American Ballet Theatre, and she was promoted to this title in 2015 after her lead performance in Swan Lake. I was a ballet dancer for 13 years, and have always found her story to be inspiring.

The next woman, Vera Rubin, provided the first evidence for dark matter from her studies of galaxy rotation rates. I found her life story to be interesting because everyone discouraged her from pursuing a career in astronomy. When she applied to graduate school at Princeton, she was barred due to her gender, and they didn’t accept women for another 27 years in their program.

The last woman pictured is Rachel Morrison, who was the first woman to receive an Oscar nomination, in it’s 90-year history, for Director of Cinematography (among several other prestigious awards). This was for the movie Mudbound, but she also did the cinematography for Black Panther this year.

Going into this project, I expected more people passing by to know about these woman. As the mural progressed, I was given more opportunities to explain how brilliant each of these women are to people passing by. It’s been such a pleasure to create and interact with the people of Birmingham, as well as pay tribute to extraordinary women who have paved the way.