Searching for Be Love, the purple-people painter of Denver

I don’t use the word “struck” lightly, so here goes: I was struck dead in my tracks by this mural on a garage along Lakewood Gulch.

A mural in Highland, at West 33th Avenue and Osage Street. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

I don’t use the word “struck” lightly, so here goes: I was struck dead in my tracks by this mural on a garage along Lakewood Gulch.

b-love-1-4

You may have seen it too, a beautiful face watching the train cars rumble past on the W Line. Or maybe you know the rest of the series.

There’s an accompanying piece on the back of the building and on its fences too, presumably by the same artist:

Art near Lakewood Gulch. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)
Art near Lakewood Gulch. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

I tried a couple different ways to get the story behind the art, which stands at West 12th Avenue and Lowell Boulevard. One neighbor told me a friend or relative of the property owner painted it, so I left a note on the door.

My request hasn’t been answered, but I made a happy discovery today: Another face, this one in Highland at the corner of West 33rd Avenue and Osage Street, watching from behind a chain-link fence.

A mural in Highland, at West 33th Avenue and Osage Street. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)
A mural in Highland, at West 33th Avenue and Osage Street. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

This has to be a series, right? It shares the same colors, another peaceful face against abstract patterns.

I walked around the side of the building…

A courtyard in the Highland neighborhood. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)
A courtyard in the Highland neighborhood. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

… and made a quick, slightly nervous knock on the door, whereupon I met this guy:

Michael Tavel. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)
Michael Tavel. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

Michael Tavel is an architect who focuses on sustainable, urban design. He owns the building, he said, but he’s not the artist.

Rather, a younger man approached him earlier this year, asking for permission to paint on the south-facing wall, which looks out over a lot that a neighboring landowner had scraped clean.

“When I was researching him, I figured out what his real name was, but he told me he preferred to remain anonymous,” Tavel said.

Instead, the artist goes by a pseudonym: Be Love. Or maybe it’s spelled differently. He doesn’t have any web presence that I could find — preferring, as Tavel explained, to let the art speak for itself. (Related: Read Matt Sebastian’s excellent profile of SMiLE, another anonymous artist in Boulder.)

The project took about a week, as Tavel recalled. He gave me one other tidbit too: There was another. I found it near the intersection of West 30th Avenue and Zuni Street.

A mural in Highland. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)
A mural in Highland. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

This might be my favorite of all, in its scale and its setting especially. No one was around to give me any more details, so I just did what I was supposed to. I looked.

A mural in Highland. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)
A mural in Highland. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

One last thought: I wonder, too, if part of the point is that the subjects are people of color (not just purple, but black), and that they are appearing in gentrifying neighborhoods. Maybe it’s not something so specific — but I love that they’re making our streets more human.

Are you the artist? Do you know of another piece? Email me.

Update: Reader Jason Callegari spotted this piece, apparently by the same artist, at the northeast corner of West Colfax and Holland Street in Lakewood.

West colfax wishes #denverart #denvermurals

A photo posted by jasonjcallegari (@jasonjcallegari) on

 

Andrew Kenney

Author: Andrew Kenney

Andrew Kenney writes about public spaces, Denver phenomena and whatever else. He previously worked for six years as a reporter at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. His most prized possession is his collection of bizarre voicemail. Leave him one at 303-502-2803, or email akenney@denverite.com.