Chicago artist Henry Gonzalez spells his message clearly in the mural on 16th Street near Ashland Avenue in Pilsen:
“Let’s stop raising monsters,” it says.
As the father of two girls aged 10 and 6, parenting is an important theme for Gonzalez, who created part of the mural with a picture of a girl in a hoodie, while his friend and collaborator known as EKTA created the rest of what has a creature with a leopard-like headdress.
“Mine is the little girl, an innocent little girl,” says Gonzalez, who lives in Archer Heights and walks past the moniker GAPE ONE for his art. “She has a little monster hoodie to show where she could go in life.
“And it matches a bit with the adult monster with the main character – a bit like a small child, then the adult version when she had not grown up well.
“Because I’m a father, I’m more aware of how parents interact with their children – on the street, the grocery store, anywhere, anywhere,” he says.
So he notices things like “parents yelling at their kids in public for few reasons” and says, “I’m trying to use it to learn.”
Compassion, honesty, love – Gonzalez says these are the things parents need to instill and do when children are young.
“When they are kids, that’s when we need to pay the most attention to them,” he says.
The mural decorates part of a mile-long railway support wall. The wall and nearby railway viaducts in Pilsen carry hundreds of murals.
Gonzalez says his goal was to encourage “anyone who is a parent or plans to be a parent to take parenting seriously. It’s a full time job. And it’s a life’s work. It’s nothing to sneeze at. ”
EKTA – the real name Antonio Hernandez – says he hoped to convey a related message and remind people that children are often filled with worries and fears. In other words, he says, “They have monsters inside.”
Many children will “open up to parents and say, ‘I have this problem, I have this inside me, and I will tell you mom and dad and solve that problem,'” says Hernandez, 33, who 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 are in the same crew. It’s a lot of history. ”
Gonzalez, who grew up in Back of the Yards, says he “has been drawing since I was a kid in high school. I come from a graffiti background. These days he says: “I strictly make murals and permission walls” – where someone has been allowed 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 it up in 2010 to work full time as an artist. He estimates he has made hundreds of murals.
The monster’s mural was formerly the concrete canvas that carried one of the most famous and most controversial murals on 16th Street — a giant opossum cut in two, the intestines visible.
Gonzalez says it had already been painted when he and Hernandez started their project last year. But a piece of opossum is still visible.