Montreal artists are refreshing the Main

We spoke to three local artists who are currently creating major works as part of Mural Fest.

Earth CrusherWork by Earth Crusher. Photos by Lisa Sproull
From June 4–14, St-Laurent Boulevard will be home to the third edition of Mural Fest, with talented artists from around the world arriving to paint walls along the city’s dividing line. As exciting as it is to welcome Curiot (Mexico City), Faith47 (Cape Town) and Nychos (Vienna) to our streets, Mural Fest also offers a high-profile platform to artists from our own community to showcase their work. Half of this year’s artists are based in Montreal; here are three of them.
Earth Crusher is a member of A’shop crew whose titular character, a Patrick Bateman-esque, business-suited corporate agent with a boxy transmitter for a head, can be seen across town in murals (on his own or with frequent collaborator Five8), installations like the scale billboard he completed for Université de Montréal’s HEC in 2014, or public interventions like the recent appearance of the Earth Crusher inside the metro system’s advertisement windows. Getting his start in the graffiti scene as a teenager, EarthCrusher developed his technique and style under the moniker Dré, and soon began to establish the Earth Crusher alterego.

“Graffiti got me into that mindset of making work that’s socially responsible and has more of a message,” he says. “I’ve been playing with this character of the one-per-cent businessman for about 10 years, building it up and making the story richer. I like to play with him being a super villain — he’s over the top in a bad way. It came from making fun of Wall Street tycoons. I try to make it funny and humourous, though it’s a serious subject.”

This year will be Earth Crusher’s first solo project for Mural Fest, and he’s been a frequent guest at Under Pressure over the years as well. “Festivals like Mural bring more attention to the arts,” he says. “With all these festivals that celebrate art, we’re better off altogether.”

Earth Crusher’s mural is going up on Clark just north of Duluth (back of Rona Bois Idéal).
MC Baldassari

MC Baldassari is having a very busy year, with her first Mural Fest appearance coming on the heels of a solo show of her work at Fresh Paint Gallery, and live-painting at the Chromatic Festival. A native of France, Baldassari came to Montreal to study Industrial Design in 2007 and has since become a sought after visual artist and member of En Masse, known for her expressive, feminine style that calls back to art nouveau
romanticism as much as comic book magical realism.

“When I started doodling stuff from my imagination, I was only doing guys,” she says, “but that was very, very different from what I do now. I developed this feminine character at the same time as I developed my own feminine side. I was really a tomboy when I was younger. It’s the evolution of my mind and how I discovered myself as a woman. You paint what you are, so my style evolves with me. I’m always doing what I feel at the moment and I want to have pleasure and give pleasure when people look at what I do.”

Baldassari credits the supportive Montreal arts scene with inspiring her to push her work further. “Everything I’m doing is because of the community. En Masse has been a big, big thing for me that’s really helped my career — for knowing other artists and progressing in my work and my process. It’s always motivating when you see what’s happening. I like Montreal for this. I’m sure if I was in France, I would never do what I’m doing
now. I know I can do it because I’m here.”

MC Baldassari will be working on a wall on the Kitsuné café building on Prince-Arthur, just west of St-Laurent
Melissa Del Pinto

Melissa Del Pinto is a fine artist with a background in illustration, including a stint in the fashion industry. She’s accustomed to creating large-scale works, but she usually renders her photorealistic birds onto movable surfaces like canvases, often creating custom frames for her pieces from unique found objects.

Working directly on a wall during this year’s Mural Fest will be a new experience for Del Pinto, who has chosen to present a crow, her favourite bird. “I’ve been fascinated by them since I was a kid,” she says. “They’re often regarded as evil omens or the bird of death — I’m trying to take that away so people can see how amazing they are and not be so negative about them all the time!”

One way Del Pinto will allow her crow to shine with positive light is to use a lot of colour. “I’ve ordered a range of purples and blues and teals, just to play with that dark, ominous thing that people have attached to crows. I’m going to mock that idea with very happy colours.

“I start with the eyes,” Del Pinto says, “because I feel like it needs to communicate with me. I need to be able to relate or communicate with the subject and then it morphs from that point on. Because the bird is just a single theme for me, I always put a plain background in a solid colour because I really want to emphasize the bird. I want the character to shine through.” ■
Melissa Del Pinto will paint her crow inside the Mural Fest zone on St-Laurent just south of Prince-Arthur
See a full gallery of Mural Fest weekend one here.