Jodi Thomas leads a child past a mural at McDonough Blvd and Satwell Avenue in Atlanta on Friday, Aug. 24, 2012. The mural, spanning half the length of a football field and showing a woman undressing, has caused some controversy in the community.
Amid a landscape dominated by a federal penitentiary, vacant industrial plants and check-cashing joints, the mural at the intersection of McDonough Boulevard and Sawtell Avenue in southeast Atlanta stands out.
"I love it," said Andy Robertson, 27, of the controversial painting, which shows a woman in various states of undress. "It's better than an ugly concrete wall," he said.
His associate, Lester Dotson, said he doesn't mind the mural but "I've got a little 10-year-old grandbaby," said the 53-year-old landscaper. "It's confusing to them."
The painting — part of the nonprofit Living Walls Conference, which commissioned artists from around the world to create artworks on some of Atlanta's vacant walls — was completed last weekend. Though news outlets like the Huffington Post reported residents of the hardscrabble Lakewood Heights neighborhood were "outraged" over the mural, the debate is, in truth, not so contentious.
While Tajiddin Muwwakkil, the imam at the neighboring Masjid Al-Quaran, has called the painting "pornographic and offensive," the pastor of Antioch Baptist Church, which sits directly across from the mural on McDonough, has resisted commenting on the nude cyclorama.
Camille Russell Love, director of Atlanta's Office of Cultural Affairs, said most of the emails she's received about the mural have been positive even though the finished product caught the city off guard.
The artist of the mural, Hyuro, submitted a sketch that was "a far cry from what was installed," Love said. Living Walls is now resubmitting plans with the city based on the completed mural.
"Currently we're in a dialogue with the City of Atlanta and the community," the nonprofit said in a statement released Thursday. "We'd like the process to play out. We welcome an open dialogue, but we want to see [the mural] stay."
While a final decision is pending, the conversation continues for community residents like Dotson and Robertson.
"So how would you explain this to your daughter," Dotson asked.