New York Times journalist J. David Goodman wrote about gum and urban sidewalks, "Of the many great mysteries of the city street, perhaps none is more ubiquitous and more perplexing than the presence of so many black dots. Even when one knows what they are — gum, walked on many, many, many times — it still seems impossible. Do people really chew that much gum? Do they really spit so much of it on the pavement, and do so many people really step in it on such a regular basis as to grind each one into a dark ovular stain?"
Philadelphia artist Michel Delgado sees this urban sidewalk phenomenon as inspiration for his artwork. Delgado has created a series entitled The Gum Spotting Experience based on the sheer quantity and endless variety of shapes produced by discarded gum left behind for pedestrians to endlessly walk on.
Delgado starts by taking photographs of a multiplicity of gum spots. He transfers the images to paper vellum, creates a silkscreen, and handprints the gum shapes and markings using only black ink. The black represents the original gum spots. There is no other black used in the paintings.
To preserve the printed gum spots, Delgado paints around the black revealing a magical narrative that is intuitively informed by the source material. He typically starts painting without a preconceived composition. Delgado has said that his paintings are "triggered from the world I've been in…I paint straightforward narratives, stories of my journey and memories of everyday experiences."
Gum spotting is one part of Michel Delgado's artistic journey. He has stated that "growing up in Senegal, on the west coast of Africa, life and art shared the same space. They were indistinguishable." Here, Delgado has imaginatively merged a habit of human behavior into paintings that are mystical and fantasy-driven.
With the realization that the art is based on sidewalk gum spots, the viewer's visual search begins to isolate the areas of black. After experiencing Delgado's work, it is likely that you will never see urban sidewalks in the same way again.