BALTIMORE — Monday morning, residents and commuters near Baltimore City Hall witnessed an impromptu, satirical art display of a roughly 5-foot long wire homage to Healthy Holly hanging from overhead lines along Fayette Street.
The piece was an installation created and adorned to the power line by local street artists Reed BMore, who has been making such wire entities for roughly five years now. He said his artwork doesn’t normally trend so clearly political, but the spiraling story of the “Healthy Holly” controversy and how it reflects government malfeasance, corrupt leadership, and the city’s inability to work at longstanding problems struck a chord in him.
“With a lot of my subject matter, I try to do a lot of positivity and evoking nostalgia,” Reed BMore said, “so I guess it was kind of easy prey, may even seem tongue-and-cheek, for me to basically steal her story book character and hang it in front of City Hall, where you would expect work to get done about these things.”
The work shows the title character of the Mayor Catherine Pugh’s now notorious children’s books with her hands tied behind her bank, a physical posture similar to how someone may be arrested. The piece did not last long, as it was removed from its perch by midday. Reed BMore’s most political work prior to this piece may have been a protest homage installed in 2015, memorializing the street movement and eventual uprising that followed the death of Freddie Gray that spring.
He said the “Healthy Holly” piece took him about three hours to create, using about 100 feet of wire that cost him about $12, “and whatever medical goes toward my future arthritis,” he joked.
His typical material is 12- to 16-gauge wire, of which he guesses he’s used about 2 miles worth in making the 100 or so art projects he’s installed over the years. His designs are both artistic and practical, as he has developed a carabiner-like hook on each that allows him to toss the pieces onto overhead wires and have them hook on and stay put. He said he’s had enough practice, “usually it takes less than five throws” to get his work to stay.
“There’s a saying where, ‘laziness builds innovation,’" he said. "I could say for sure just by having a roll of wire around, it helps me through a lot of other problems aside from visual ones. It’s the one material that I know how to utilize within my own means and in that it becomes very personal to me.… It’s just kind of humbling to go work on a basic three dimensional line.”
Reed BMore grew up in the Millersville-area, the son of a Navy family that congregated around Annapolis. In 2009, he said he moved towards the city, now living in Station North. He currently helps run the Creative Labs in Hampden.
Most of his previous installations have been distributed around the city, often creating works that celebrate the city or a neighborhood. He normally receives welcome reactions from residents – some even help him.
“Generally when I work within the communities, they’re pretty accepting, and I’m usually fortunate to work out in the sunlight, work out in the day time,” Reed BMore said. “They give me a lot of freedom to do my own thing; they’ve even been accomplices in some of those aspects.”
For installations like the Healthy Holly character, or other work he tries to hang round the city's major thoroughfares or its central business district, he needs to be more clandestine, tossing the wire figures up in the cover of night. Most of his art has been taken down, some more slowly than others. He’s even taken his show on the road, leaving behind wire art in a few cities he’s traveled to. A fuller catalogue of his art can be seen on the ReedBMore instagram account. Though he shares photos of his work, which can be used to identify where the art is located, on social media, he tries to keep his own identity a mystery as not to draw the ire of city employees, law enforcement, or others in the street art community.
“It’s really hard and difficult to navigate those waters of being an artist where you do the stuff and be out there, but also the more that you put yourself out there in my position, the more you leave yourself vulnerable to like a city employee who follows your Instagram and knows where that road is, or anything like that,” he said. “So a lot of my main pieces I kind of showcase or tell a story about in my social media platforms, those mostly get taken, so I think I have like two pieces left in the city.”