Walls. I can’t seem to escape hearing about walls lately. I know you’re probably thinking, “Great, she’s going to write about border walls!” No, I promise- I won’t talk about the Great Wall of China. But walls are on the news, on the radio, in everyday conversations. It’s a word with so much baggage now that it has taken on a life of its own. In many circles, it has become an ugly, charged word. I decided it’s time to take back the word and focus on how great walls can be. I’m dedicating this blog post to all the walls around us.

   In New York, the company Plant Connection, Inc creates a special patented Living Wall System. These walls are simply astounding. In June 2016, they revealed a multihued 25 feet high and 336 feet long living wall at the World Trade Center’s Liberty Park. The wall was designed to complement the 9/11 Memorial across Liberty Street. In 2013, they installed New York City’s largest interior living wall with their 23 story Atrium Living Wall. It measures 32’x60′ and includes 11,673 plants. More walls are going up each year, transforming urban concrete jungles with small oases of green beauty.

       living wall in NYC living wall installation


   In 2007, artist Jorge Mendez Blake created a powerful art installation- Chapter VI- The Castle– in the José Cornejo Franco Library in Guadalajara, Mexico. The project was a single wall of bricks constructed without mortar 75 feet long and 13 feet high. The wall was built to balance on the book The Castle by Franz Kafka. As you can see in the picture, the book forces the brick wall to shape around the object, creating a curve. The Castle art installation by Jorge Mendez BlakeThe original intention of the piece was summed up eloquently by Eric David: a 22m long brick wall [was] constructed by stacking bricks one on top of another without mortar, in the middle of which, crushed underneath, is an edition of Franz Kafka’s The Castle. The book’s theme, the impossibility of its central character ever reaching the eponymous Castle, is thus re-imagined as the impossibility of ever physically reaching the book while the same time, this physical metaphor of the book’s plot spatially unfolds the book’s narration.”

I’d like to look at it through a slightly different lens. In this art, I see that thewoman looking at The Castle art installation power of literature, and by extension- knowledge and critical thinking, can create a ripple in the wall. It can force something solid to change and reform. It is powerful in its own right. However, the piece also shows us that although a rich story and lesson may be present, it is inaccessible if we hold it closed with the weight of our societal constructions. We each must decide what message to focus on in our lives.


   There is a wall of love in this world. It is called Le Mur des Je T’aime (I love you: the wall) and is located in downtown Paris, Montmartre, France. Staged in the romantic garden of the Jehan Rictus garden, it measures 40 square meters and includes 612 tiles of enamelled lava. Frederic Baron and Clair Kito created this monument to love that includes over 311 written declarations of “I love you” in 250 different languages. To create this piece, Baron had friends, family, and strangers fill three large notebooks with the phrase “I love you” written 1000 times in more than 300 languages. Kito then used her skills as an oriental calligrapher to assemble the script. The wall also features splashes of red to symbolize pieces of a broken heart that the wall aims to mend.


   There is a type of wall that is near and dear to us all. It’s the cell wall. Every plant relies on the cell walls for strength, rigidity and protection. The cell walls allow plants to grow up and out, reaching sunlight. Everything you eat was once a plant, so even if you refuse to eat your vegetables you still rely on these cell walls. When you smile at the first blooms of spring, when you enjoy the feel of crisp dollars in your wallet, when you are relieved to see a full roll of toilet paper next to you, or when you happily order the guacamole and chips, you are secretly paying homage to the millions of walls around you. Here are a few pictures of some beautiful cells from the world around us:

Slide of Clematis cross section

Fern section cross sectional microsopic slide
Fern frond

Eucalyptus cross section

Yew cross section slide


   Another wall that I hope you all get to experience close up is the climbing wall. These walls are incredibly fun! They can take you back to your days as a kid climbing trees or swinging from the monkey bars. Climbing these walls is great exercise, a great exercise in trust, and a way to conquer some fears. On a side note, try to wear some fabulous pants when you get out there. Marla climbing the walls


   I’ll mention some walls that are close to my heart- art walls. Walls displaying art are of course some of my favorites. Gallery walls, walls of buildings with murals, museum walls. It is easy to lose yourself as you gaze Light Rail Gallery wallat the display of colors and shapes, of passions put on canvas. I recently hung my art on the walls of the Light Rail Gallery and felt very lucky to have this new association with the word “wall.” This 8’x4′ wall was now “my wall”- my space to use to provoke thoughts and feelings and to forge connections with people.  


   As a kid, the museum walls I loved to look at were in the GuggenheiGuggenheim museum rotunda viewm. The museum itself is a work of art designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The walls spiral upward towards a large skylight 96 feet above. As you walk the spiraling ramps, you view the art exhibitions and the people around you. In one moment you are up close to a painting, admiring the brush strokes or the details. As you walk around, you see the same piece of art on the wall from across the rotunda. It’s a whole new perspective and an inspiring experience.


   In Honolulu, the artist Robert Wyland transformewyland royal aloha whale mural in Honolulud the Royal Aloha building into a display of playful whales. Each time I drove by, I would have a few moments of happiness just looking at these majestic creatures splashing in the ocean. Over a span of almost 30 years, Wyland has completed 100 life size public marine murals around the world.

 And finally, I will end my blog with an adorable wall:

Walrus mother and calf

So I hope that the next time you hear about a wall, instead of feeling dread or frustration, your mind flies to one of these great associations of walls. At the very least, may you think of a sassy looking baby walrus.


Marla Bender

The Wall

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