On Wednesday, November 25, Atlanta lost one of its most promising arts advocates. Laura Patricia Calle, who served as program director of Living Walls, passed away from complications of kidney disease. Calle, who was 26, wanted to use art to transform and improve the city of Atlanta. Originally from Colombia, Calle attended high school in the Atlanta suburbs and graduated from Georgia State University. She moved in several different social circles, including the arts, civic leadership, and the Atlanta drag scene. Her short but inspiring life moved several community members to create a public memorial in her memory.
The weekend after Calle’s passing, New Jersey-based street artist Lunar New Year (Luna Nutre Yerbas) began painting the mural. The piece is located directly across from the watering hole 97 Estoria in Cabbagetown, along the wall abutting the train tracks. This wall runs along Wylie Street and features several murals that Calle helped realize through Living Walls. By placing her portrait in this meaningful spot (right next to Krog Street), the community pays homage to her contributions to advance public art in Atlanta.
The mural features several different overlaid elements that capture the spirit and enthusiasm Calle had for life. On the left side of the composition is a full-body portrait of Calle in warrior pose with her fist held held high in the air. This image came from a picture taken of Calle before a kidney transplant surgery earlier this year. Here you can see the strength Calle possessed when faced with a frightening autoimmune disease. The right hand side of the mural is a close up portrait of Calle’s face. Her soft, pensive eyes look up and outwards, as if she’s gazing towards some hopeful place just past the viewer. Calle’s eyes are framed by delicate skin and a youthful hair style that falls gently around her face, which highlights how young she was, like somebody on the verge of an exciting adult career.
Interspersed throughout the mural are design elements symbolically representing Calle. White birds in flight represent her spirit’s release into the world. Around her are abstracted flower forms like roses and zinnias, which heighten the delicate details of the portrait. A diagonal line cuts across the mural with the colors of the Colombian flag. These different elements connect the two portraits of Calle.
This mural pays tribute to Laura Calle in a format she would have been very proud of. If you’ve never gone for a walk to enjoy all the wonderful street art Atlanta has to offer, the corner of Wylie and Krog is a great place to start. You’ll be rewarded by a plethora of other street art (many that Calle supported through Living Walls). Laura would be pleased to know she got people to participate in and enjoy art in Atlanta.
Matthew Terrell writes, photographs, and creates videos in the fine city of Atlanta. His work can be found regularly on the Huffington Post, where he covers such subjects as the queer history of the South, drag culture, and gay men’s health issues.