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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — The brand new triptych of murals adorning two outside walls of the Northeast Oklahoma City Homeland grocery store are a vivid and vibrant visual marvel celebrating the cultural identity of the area both past and present, and this Sunday, the community that inspired the work will be celebrating it as well.

“Home is not really a place, it’s more a feeling,” Carlos Barboza, the painter and muralist behind the work, told me of his inspirations for the piece. “Home is like the place where you feel most protected and was nourished and taken care of. And so that was the idea behind this.”

The staggering trio of artworks, with one on the front, west-facing wall of the building and two on the south wall, are not only massive in emotional scope, but also in physical scale.

Over 20 gallons of paint in more than 80 distinct colors were used to create the commission, which Barboza says he secured simply by drawing up a design and submitting it for consideration.

“They left everything relatively broad, to the point where you could kind of come up with your own ideas, but they definitely wanted to focus on the community here,” he explains of the open call selection process to find the right artist for the job. 

“It was also really tricky, because it’s three walls, you know, three different designs, but there’s also one that was on a different wall than the other two. So I knew that the ones that were together had to flow together almost like one piece, and the third, the one here in the front, I knew that was going to be a centerpiece, and it had to work on its own, but they all had to kind of share the same visual language.”

That visual language is defined primarily by African-American faces and figures, a way to highlight and celebrate the historical-cultural makeup of Northeast Oklahoma City. But Barboza didn’t just want to showcase individuals alone, he wanted to dig into a visualization of family and community across generations.

“The pieces are just very much about family, and even if they’re not like your actual family, you know, just being surrounded by community. That can be your family,” he told me. “They’re the ones that are going to embrace you and kind of wrap your hands around each other. That all definitely came from where I came from.”

Barboza was born and raised through his early life in San Jose, Costa Rica, moving to Oklahoma around the age of ten. After some years living in Los Angeles before returning home to Yukon, he has developed a unique and deeply personal perspective of diversity among families and cultures.

That perspective made him the perfect fit for the Homeland mural project.

The goal behind the project was to help further endear the 30,000 square foot grocer to the surrounding community, an area of the city that constituted a “food desert” for a number of years before public outcry and support led to the Homeland’s building.

Barboza is more than happy to help Homeland create something that reflects not only the community currently surrounding the store, but that also pays tribute to the Black heritage and perseverance that has prevailed down the generations.

“One thing that has been very special about this has been being able to do a mural that is just solely paying tribute to the African American community,” he said. “You don’t see that anywhere else in the city.”

Event to celebrate

Homeland at NE 36th and Lincoln in OKC will be hosting a large-scale outdoor event this Sunday, December 5th, to celebrate Barboza’s murals with music and local community groups from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

With a live DJ, a photo booth, and a number of local community organizations from in and around the area, the aim is to make this First Sunday event a meaningful gathering opportunity for the population, as well as a way to honor the meaning behind the work, entitled “Home,” and the remarkable talent of the man behind it.

Last Updated December 3, 2021, 9:28 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor