If you’ve passed through Dewey Square Park sometime in the past month, you may have noticed a new addition. That would be Tehran muralist and street artist Mehdi Ghadyanloo, who’s been hard at work creating a 5,320-square-foot mural on the Greenway Wall, commissioned by the Greenway Conservancy. We checked in with the former farmer-turned-internationally recognized artist to talk about his new piece, which will be on view for the next year.
Are you excited for your first piece commissioned in the U.S.? Yes, definitely I’m excited because I can show my work in this corner of [the] world. People are coming here and they follow public art very seriously. I’m happy that many people come every day just to check the progress. … And they take selfies and pictures. It’s good. It shows that they like it.
What are some challenges when you’re creating a piece of art this large in scale? Conceptually, I just really want to [reach] people and give them a moment of joy. Also, I want to turn their imagination engine on. But I mean, about the form, I really like to create something that they can’t ignore. Something very strong that invites them to see and create their own story when they’re looking at my work.
What’s the inspiration behind this piece? The name of this piece is Spaces of Hope. I was here three months ago just to study Boston, to study the environment and talk to people. And because it’s near South Station, I found that lots of people usually came out of this station and go directly to work in groups, you know. In the evening, they came back in the same situation, and I decided to use these people—I mean ordinary people with casual clothes and in suits—in my painting.
Is positivity a goal in a lot of your work? Yes, in my public art works. I also work on my works in the studio, and they are different, though in terms of visual language they are the same: I’m using perspective, I’m using optical illusion, I’m using symbols. … [But in a public space] I see a response from people, and I don’t want someone to see my work and decide to commit suicide or something like this. Yes. I want my works here, in Tehran, everywhere, to be positive because, you know … they are forced to see this artwork because it’s in their streets, in their parks, so definitely it should be positive. … I think that now when we turn on the TV or when we go to social media, everything that we can read is bad news—about the Middle East, about bombings everywhere in Europe. You know, everywhere. What you need is art to balance your life. When you can’t change something, when you’re not president, it’s good to be an artist—to help people, to give them a moment of balance between lots of bad news.