Five thirty eight Congress Street is home to the SPACE Gallery, which is artfully taken care of by director Nat May. Within these walls hold the pain and suffering of Syria, strikingly brought to life by emerging artist Alina Gallo, in one of her first large-scale pieces, titled “We Are Staying.” As you step into SPACE Gallery, you are transported to a country plagued by the presence of unyielding terrorism. The huge walls and empty space of the gallery demand your attention, and the bright colors send your brain into frenzy as you struggle to absorb the entire mural. Upon the introduction that May gave us, he explained that this was no ordinary paint. It was a composite called egg tempera, that required Gallo to individually and painstakingly crack over 200 eggs — only to just use the yolks. After the cracking was done, the yolk was combined with water and a powder that contained the color pigment earth tone using minerals found in Syria. I was baffled, and lets just say the egg tempura life is not for me. It made the difference for the egg concoction breathed a certain life into the piece and made it just that more amazing. The piece is haunting and zeros in on the people and the streets that are directly impacted by the onslaught of war that has ravaged their home. Gallo introduces us to the tradition of using graffiti as a way to express one’s opinion political or otherwise. That technique is highlighted in this piece as her mural is littered with Arabic transcriptions and shows that, even in the dark, people can make a stand for what they believe. Dotted amongst the crumbling buildings and along the sides of the streets there are signs that the people will not be suppressed. This graffiti is their declaration of independence, and it brought me hope that not all was lost. For me, the most haunting image was of a Winnie-the-Pooh bear hanging next to an AK-47. This image chilled me. I saw how these children’s youth has been torn from them and sucked into the budding conflict. Along with this gruesome image, there were people scattered through the mural. I thought that the way that they were painted didn’t add to the overall picture. The figures were not very chiseled, in the sense that they had the shape of a blob instead of a person. The arms and the legs had no real shape and the faces didn’t really convey the hardship. One figure held a camera. This figure had the chance to be a really influential figure in the mural because he was documenting the war. The execution fell a little flat on him and the rest of the figures in the creation. One other confusing aspect was these circles that were placed on the walls of the buildings throughout the piece. What were they? What were they supposed to represent? Are they bullet holes? I have since come to the conclusion that they are indeed bullet holes, but it would have been helpful if that had been explained.

My least favorite part was this grey substance dripping down the top of the painting. It seemed unnecessary and took away from the scene. I noticed that there were only holes in the grey area and I figured that the grey was the war consuming the country. That also could have been shown more clearly. Overall I very much enjoyed visiting this gallery. It was a documentary as much as it was art that shows that what is happening in Syria is still very relevant to us here, 5,425 miles away. Gallo’s piece did the Syrians justice, and this mural gives their cause a raw face, not just a name.

Elizabeth Peters, 14, is from Scarborough.

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