Work of the Week – “Writing on the Pharaoh’s Wall” by Gabriel Shaffer
by Parker Louise Bobbitt
This week’s Work of the Week is The Writing on the Pharaoh’s Wall by folk artist Gabriel Shaffer.
In the past, few accepted graffiti as an equal to more traditional art forms. While still controversial, it has finally found its rightful place as a generally accepted medium in the art world. Gabriel Shaffer’s work, The Writing on the Pharaoh’s Wall, is an example of graffiti and other nontraditional mediums in a museum setting.
Shaffer’s work is impossible to ignore. Covering every wall of the public restrooms in the Museum atrium, The Writing on the Pharaoh’s Wall is an exciting and immersive experience for visitors. For anyone who has spent much time in Asheville, figures such as the bicycle-riding nun are immediately recognizable. Surrounding these figures is a collage-like assemblage of graffiti tags, quotes, imagery and references to the quilts of Gee’s Bend. With its broad range of inspiration, Shaffer’s work can not be classified.
Shaffer worked with other prominent Asheville street artists to complete the installation of The Writing on the Pharaoh’s Wall. Ruiner, Sinker, Mom’s Crew, Graffiti Masons, the B Team and others collaborated with Shaffer in the making of this work. Striving to celebrate the Asheville community through this work, Shaffer carefully chose images that would best reflect the city and its art deco history.
Shaffer grew up spending his days in his mother, Cher Shaffer’s studio in West Virginia. Growing up in this artistic environment inspired Shaffer who remembers discovering graffiti at a young age. While living and working in Asheville, Gabriel exhibited his work at the Satellite Gallery alongside his mother, Cher. Since, he has moved to New Orleans where he founded the Red Truck Gallery.
The Writing on the Pharaoh’s Wall is a legally commissioned mural at the Asheville Art Museum but graffiti continues to have illegal connotations for some. Seeing this mural that encompasses elements of graffiti, folk art and illustration presented in a museum setting helps in changing the negative perceptions associated with these art forms. How we define art is constantly evolving and recently, new and innovative art forms have become part of the conversation. Gabriel Shaffer’s mural demonstrates the Asheville Art Museum’s mission to bring new, enlightening and inspiring experiences with American art to the surrounding community.