Artist JB Daniel's "Laborpaste" public art installation features labor leaders throughout the decades taken out of their context — and pasted across the neighborhood. (DNAinfo/Mark Konkol)
PULLMAN — I pulled into the alley and spotted what appeared to be a stranger wearing a porter’s uniform, carrying a suitcase and giving me the side-eye.
But it wasn’t a man at all — just a life-size, black and white photograph of a Pullman porter stuck to my neighbor’s garage door, the latest street art effort of resident artist JB Daniel, called "Laborpaste."
The Pullman porter is one of a handful of photo cutouts of workers, labor leaders and one iconic dog that Daniel has already blended into the Pullman National Monument’s patina streetscape.
“For me it’s the gilded age in Pullman,” Daniel told me. “I kind of want it to be a labor place. I didn’t want this work to be obvious. I didn’t want it to be preachy. I didn’t want it to say, ‘Here’s what happened.’"
And it doesn’t.
Writer Mark Konkol talks about good things going on in Pullman.
Daniel picked photos of labor leaders from different eras, including portraits of Cesar Chavez as a boy, activist Dolores Huerta, Pullman porter union founder A. Philip Randolph, Frederick Douglass, Eugene Debs, leader of the Pullman strike, and even Debs' hunting dog — all of which you might not immediately recognize as symbols of a pro-union message.
He even plans to include a cutout photo of his ex-girlfriend’s mother, the militant United Steelworkers Union boss Alice Peurala.
“I took photos of all sorts of labor folks, cut them out of their context and pasted them up in the present. I wanted them to interact as citizens of the community. Nothing formal. So you just wander into them and you have to figure it out for yourself,” he said.
“There’s no names attached. If people get interested, they can find out about them, which is actually the interesting part. Let people do their own research rather than just be told … a lot of things that have happened here just get told to people.”
Daniel uses a century-old wheat paste recipe — a mixture of flour and water cooked with a pinch of sugar to make it extra sticky — to affix the life-size photos around the neighborhood.
“The wheat paste goes back to the 1800s, and I really like that lineage and the idea of street art on such beautiful surfaces,” the artist said. “These are small and intimate, and I don’t want them to last. … With all the patinas we have here, the photos match the background. They will disintegrate and just blend into the background.”
Daniel plans to paste up the rest of his street art exhibit — a dozen in all — on warm days throughout the year.
I could tell you the exact location of the first "Laborpaste" photos, but Daniel said he’d prefer if people stumble upon them themselves like I did.
“That’s all part of the fun,” he said.
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