Suffering. I’ve suffered plenty in the three, short years living in Grand Rapids. Depression, anxiety, and loneliness are like the weather of Michigan. Abrupt, unexpected changes. A morning so pure that the clamor of birds at six in the morning can be forgiven, only to a cold and frigid evening, requiring clothing boxed away for different season. As the weather changes, so do the reasons behind agony and celebration.
Rat Race is the feeling of neglect, rejection from the city one loves. George Eberhardt developed the idea after being brushed-off by multiple employers in Grand Rapids. His work often misunderstood as “edgy”, constantly told that he is, “not what we are looking for.” It’s a difficult conversation for Eberhardt, as those jobs that he applied for would later be occupied by an artist who was under qualified, lacking in the technical skills needed, but who fit into the dominant culture’s image. How does one balance this conflict, this separation in a city that values fitting-in more than ability? A city that rejects the realities of others in favor of its own?
This isn’t a question of black and white. Eberhardt’s work isn’t tied to his background. He is a local artist. One that challenges local narratives, constantly overlooked by the players of Grand Rapids. This Space is Not Abandoned provided him with the opportunity to express an idea that laid dormant for six long years. Six years without a voice. Six years ignored. His piece is an accomplishment, finally completed. In the same light, there is a sense of shame that Rat Race needed six years to materialize.
The mural encapsulates the hardships of life. The abuse one endures, along with the self harm involved. Yet, nothing is ever simple, rarely is life or art a binary function of one feeling or another.
What strengthens your resolve? What motivates you to keep going? Why do you continue to participate?
For Eberhardt, rejection transmuted into passion. Crafting his skill, he wants his work to extend beyond Grand Rapids. The desire to separate himself from the reality that dominates the city that he inhabits only physically. The result is artwork that shows feelings or experiences that are universal. Don’t be fooled by the creepiness of his piece, the allure of death. Don’t reject it simply because his narrative is different from your own. Instead, question. Have a conversation.
Why is Rat Race horrifying? Why is it foul, at times, even disgusting? This isn’t a mirror of human nature.
What gives you life?
George Eberhardt is a Michigan-based mural artist and freelance illustrator and graphic designer. Over the past few years his work has become more popular in the Grand Rapids area. Public works by George can be found in multiple neighborhoods of the city, including Downtown, the West Side, and Eastown. George also teaches comic book illustration and street art to youth at the West Michigan Center of Arts and Technology (WMCAT). One of his goals in teaching street art to young people is showing them the value in investing in their area and taking ownership of their space.