A Dublin street artist has painted a massive mural of St. Patrick on the side wall of a new skate park in Forth Smith, Arkansas. The painting is based on a design by Irish graphic artist Jim Fitzpatrick and features words by singer-songwriter Damien Dempsey.
"It's all pretty random," says Maser, one of Dublin's best-known street artists, as he tried to explain to the Irish Times how he came to paint the massive image.
Last year, a local businessman named Steve Clark developed the facility for the kids in the area. Looking to do something with the side wall of the former warehouse, the Irish fiance of one of his employees suggested Maser.
“So Steve invited me over to paint this wall, and it’s a big wall,” says the artist of the 150ft mural. “It coincided with Paddy’s Day, and I’ve recently read a book called Famine Diary, about people emigrating during the Famine. I read that and felt I’d love to do something on that, thinking about the Irish diaspora.”
Fort Smith is proud of its strong Irish heritage. The city hosts a St Patrick’s Day parade, and there is an annual Irish dancing festival every November.
“I had a sketch saved from Jim Fitzpatrick, I think he sketched it in 1997, of St Patrick, this epic sketch of him. Then I got in contact with Damo [Damien Dempsey]. I was reading articles about the ‘Plastic Paddies’, those children of Irish emigrants who come back and get insulted as being fake Irish. I explained all that to Damo and he sent me a few lines. It’s an amalgamation of me, Damo and Jim Fitzpatrick, three Irish artists trying to send a positive message. It was an homage to the Irish Americans here.”
“Irish America hold your head high, your courage and spirit will never die” read Dempsey’s words.
Maser spent four 14-hour days painting the mural, but such work is nothing new to new to the artist. In 2010, his They Are Us project, compromising more than a dozen pieces on walls across Dublin, elevated Maser above the ranks of other graffiti artists.
The centerpiece of the project was a vast painting on the side of one of the remaining Ballymun tower blocks, which read “Concrete Jungle Mother Farewell to your Stairwell Forever." An exhibition based on the work raised €30,000 for Dublin’s Simon Community.
“I learnt a lot from They Are Us, how to manage an exhibition and make it work, because we did it all ourselves. It was a big learning curve,” he says.
“It’s funny, I don’t ever really consider myself an artist,” says Maser. The categorisation suggested by the word, it seems, is too restrictive."
Regarding his next project, he says, “I don’t want to talk about it until I start doing it, but I want to go bigger. I intend to have a show early next year, based on the same thing, a love for Ireland and Irish history. Loosely addressing topics I’m reading about, and then adding my own feel to it.”
No Irish Need Apply? Not anymore