“Breaker of Chains”
Darius Steward, 2017
Watercolor on yupo paper, scanned and transposed on PVC-coated vinyl
198-ft by 6-ft, 40-ft by 6-ft
The art piece is a response to the theme of international welcome, that those who are often unseen will see themselves represented in the public realm. The subjects include portraits of Cleveland State University, Cuyahoga Community College and Campus International School students, many of whom are international students, immigrants or children of immigrants, refugees, Dreamers and community members. Moving from the west side of the bridge toward the east, the “Breaker of Chains” depicts the subjects gathering around the fence–a symbol of the barriers that disconnect us–collectively deconstructing it so that it gradually disappears. The smaller piece on the northern side captures the group gathering freely, bridging the gap and building a community that allows all to feel supported and safe.
In the larger context of the neighborhood, the highway overpass historically was built in such a way to divide communities racially and socioeconomically. Between the Campus District and MidTown neighborhoods, the Innerbelt bridge has been a psychological and physical barrier for pedestrians and various users. The project is meant to reconnect the neighborhoods along Euclid Avenue, improving the appearance and safety of the bridge. This project, one the largest installations of Darius Steward’s work, was supported by the generosity of Cleveland Neighborhood Progress and Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland.
Darius Steward’s art practice deals with social issues of identity, race and placement within western culture. His recent body of works explores issues of baggage and conveying a sense of physical and emotional weight in an image. His painting methods are a metaphor to express the connection and disconnection of the African American experience to western history and modern media while also examining his own place in the art world as well as today’s society.