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Student muralist paints more than walls

March 9, 2006
By Julia Marino

This Poetry Slam-inspired mural in the Rec Room is scheduled to be the focus of the Baker Nights event, "I love art" at the Baker University Center basement Saturday, March 11, at 8 p.m. The event will also feature Foran's collection of painted shoes and comic book illustrations.
Muralist Shaun Foran might very well be considered a "Renaissance" man ? and not just because he's multitalented. Though Foran is an artist for a subculture of shoe painters, graffiti gurus and hip-hop enthusiasts, he finds his inspiration in the precision and fresco-inspired lines of an earlier era. As is portrayed in his latest mural featured in the basement of Baker University Center, every fold in his figure's clothing shows defined creasing and reflection of light.

Photos by Julia Marino"The main thing I've been trying to do with it is have fun, and get people interested," Foran says about a piece that has taken weeks to paint. "I'd like to hear people's feedback."

His artistic ambitions first led him to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte for one year and then the Art Institute in Charlotte for two. This year, he arrived at Ohio University and is preparing his portfolio, which represents a wide range of media from graffiti to comic books, to apply for the School of Visual Communication.

"I had to start over when I came to Ohio University," he says. "But I just look at it like I have experience and it puts me a little bit ahead because I know what's coming."

Foran learned to love painting when he was just a kid growing up in Cleveland. Even then, he had an exposure to art, thanks to an aunt and uncle who studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art. He started doodling and sketching in school, his first drawing being the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The now-25-year-old Foran still paints ninjas, but his style has matured tenfold. Instead of Leonardo and Michelangelo the ninja turtles, Leonardo and Michelangelo the artists are more likely to inspire him.

"[The Renaissance] is my favorite period of art because when I look at it, I'm like, 'Wow, how did they put that much detail into it?' And it just blows my mind," he says. "I'd like to do something like that for today. Painting with an airbrush and using contemporary media while trying to get back to that style . . . that's definitely something to work toward."

Photos by Julia MarinoAnd when he paints, it is apparent he is in his element. He listens to music as he maneuvers an electric airbrush across the white walls of the dim pool hall. Soon the white plaster is replaced with red bricks and a blue-eyed hero breaks out of a background of ninjas, his heroine in hand as they run into a dewy sunset.

"I like sunsets," Foran says. "I don't know why, I'm just weird like that."

In his work, Foran is digging for something deeper -- a message painted within the lines of the sharp-looking ninjas.

"I was trying to have a modern-day superhero theme [with] someone who is trying to escape from monotony," he says.

The boy's left arm is holding the girl, and his other arm is holding a spray can, which almost appears to pop out of the wall as in a 3-D movie. His hero appears to be the artist, painting words such as "Revolution" and "Creativity" on the brick. Foran hopes that, much like his hero and heroine are breaking free from the mundane, those who see his mural will break free as well.

"I'm trying to open people's eyes and get them to branch out," he says, adding that he wants to build an awareness of grafitti as an art medium.

And thanks to Foran and efforts such as the Poetry Slam, Athens will have more exposure to these urban arts. An outlet for spoken word artists, Poetry Slam provided Foran with student poetry to be featured in the mural.

"I like to think of it as collaboration," he says.

Foran's urge to break the mold might explain another unique aspect of his persona: He is a shoe person. All kinds of shoes -- red ones, black ones, blue ones, Converse, Nikes, Adidas, even stilettos. Not that he wears high heels; he paints them. Just like his mural, his shoes walk off the beaten path.

Photos by Julia MarinoRight now he has five shoes in the works, some for friends on campus and some through his Web site, www.IceCubeShoes.com.

"A lot of shoes nowadays are boring, the same run-of-the-mill," he says. "Then I stumbled across a Web site where people were customizing shoes. It blew my mind, and I've been doing it ever since."

With both his murals and his shoes, Foran said his goal is to move people and stir creativity.

"I just want to inspire people, motivate people," he says. "Get them to be, like, 'That's something different, something I'd like to explore.'"

Julia Marino is a student writer with University Communications and Marketing.

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Published: Mar 9, 2006 4:54:00 PM
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