Pilsen mural urges parents to raise their kids well, so they don’t grow up to be monsters
The work by artists Henry Gonzalez, aka GAPE ONE, and EKTA, aka Antonio Hernandez, decorates a portion of a miles-long railroad retaining wall on 16th Street.
“LETS STOP RAISING MONSTERS,” it says.
Chicago’s murals & mosaics
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As the father of two girls, ages 10 and 6, parenting is an important theme for Gonzalez, who created part of the mural, featuring an image of a girl in a hoodie, while his friend and collaborator known as EKTA created the rest of it, which features a creature with a leopard-like headdress.
“Mine is the little girl, an innocent little girl,” says Gonzalez, who lives in Archer Heights and goes by the moniker GAPE ONE for his art. “She has a little monsters hoodie to show where she could be going in life.
“And it sort of matches up with the adult monster with the headpiece — kind of like a little kid, then the adult version when she wasn’t raised well.
“Because I am a father, I pay more mind to how parents interact with their kids — on the street, the grocery store, anywhere, everywhere,” he says.
So he notices things like “parents yelling at their kids in public for minuscule reasons” and says, “I try to use that to learn.”
Compassion, honesty, love — Gonzalez says those are the things parents need to instill and to do that when kids are young.
“When they’re kids is when we should paying them the most attention,” he says.
The mural decorates a portion of a miles-long railroad retaining wall. The wall and nearby railroad viaducts in Pilsen bear hundreds of murals.
Gonzalez says his aim was to encourage “anyone who’s a parent or plans to be a parent to take the parenting thing seriously. It’s a full-time job. And it’s a lifetime job. It’s nothing to sneeze at.”
EKTA — real name Antonio Hernandez — says he hoped to convey a related message, reminding people that kids are often filled with worries and fears. In other words, he says, “They got monsters inside.”
Many children want “to open up to parents and say, ‘I got this problem, I got this inside of me, and I want to tell you Mom and Dad and fix that problem,’ ” says Hernandez, who’s 33 and lives in Hermosa. “They want the opportunity to open up to their parents.”
Hernandez is from Mexico and moved to Chicago in 2005.
“Henry was the first graffiti writer I met over here,” he says. “We started painting together and doing graffiti together. Right now, we’re in the same crew. It’s a lot of history.”
Gonzalez, who grew up in Back of the Yards, says he’s “been drawing since I was a kid in grammar school. I come from a graffiti background.” These days, he says, “I strictly do murals and permission walls” — where someone’s given the OK to paint.
“My main medium is still spray paint,” he says. “But I also tattoo and paint with acrylic and brush.”
He says that for 12 years he was a software engineer working in telecommunications and gave that up in 2010 to work full time as an artist. He estimates that he’s done hundreds of murals.
The site of the monsters mural previously was the concrete canvas that bore one of the best-known and most-controversial murals on 16th Street — that of a giant opossum cut in two, guts visible.
Gonzalez says it already had been painted over by the time he and Hernandez started their project last year. But a sliver of the opossum is still visible.