The street artist whose colourful paint-trail lines I wrote about earlier this month may not, it turns out, deserve the credit for every last one of them. After that story was published, I got a long-distance call from Los Angeles, from someone who said that, actually, one of the blue lines was his—the one that showed up in May and wanders more or less along this path through Little Portugal, Liberty Village, and Trinity–Bellwoods. Here’s his story:
I’d been living in the neighbourhood for seven and a half years and realized, as I was preparing to leave a year ago, how many important moments in my life had occurred there: friends and lovers and fights and breakups and all sorts of different things. Having lived in such a big city, and having grown up there too, it was shocking that the world I’d inhabited had such a small radius. So I just started mapping it out. I first saw a paint drip, a yellow paint drip, in the west end, maybe three or four years ago. I don’t even know if it was accidental or not, but I just always remembered it because it went on for a long, long time. Doing one of my own was not something I wanted to do as a statement to the city at large; I just felt like there was a way before I left the country to draw a line of that personal history, something that people would mostly not see or pay attention to, but that I could think of my time there having been marked.
I found a high-gloss oil paint in a colour that I liked and then I altered it a little bit with a paint mixture to make it as vibrant as possible—I liked that it sort of looked like a thin stream of water or sky. I got a plastic bucket and burned a hole through it.
And then I walked. For the first hour, I did it with a friend who carried a second bucket to refill mine, and then he had to leave and I finished the rest. [That friend also took the photos that make up the gallery of shots, above.] The whole thing took about three and a half hours. I mean, it was rough. It was the night before I left the country, it was cold, it was late. That part was a bit ramshackle. And it was all very fucking terrifying, because there’s also the 14 Division police station on Dovercourt, which I had to walk directly by. I had put the the plastic bucket in a bag, like a reusable shopping bag, that I had cut a small hole out of. As I walked, it hung barely an inch above the ground, which was good, because it was a windy night and if I lifted it any higher than that, the line broke up into little slivers rather than just a solid line, which is what I wanted it to be.
There’s this Chilean artist named Alfredo Jaar, who does these massive projects around the world, and he refers to them as “public interventions.” A friend of mine referred to it as a private intervention. Maybe two or three of my friends know that the line is mine; no one in my family and none of my friends here know about it. When my best friend suggested that I tell the world about it, I was completely opposed. I mean, there are all sorts of things about Toronto that I’ve wondered about my whole life and I’m just like, fuck, I love not knowing why that is there. Even if the reaction to something like what I did was that everyone adored it, I still wouldn’t want anyone to know it was me. It was never meant to be associated with me personally.
Neither painter knew about it then, but both ended up drawing separate lines of the same colour through some of the same neighbourhoods at around the same time. (Both even cut through Trinity Bellwoods Park.) The only way to tell the two trails apart without a map is to follow them: the one that occasionally zigs and zags and crashes into itself was done by the guy who carried a bucket in his hand, and the one that never does was done by the guy with the “painting bike”—a guy who is pretty sure he remembers doing a “yellow paint drip, in the west end, maybe three or four years ago,” too.
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