As the solstice approaches, Pyse and co. kick off the summer season with a symbiotic combination of style and character. This Dorchester, MA production features Marvel’s infamous anti-hero “Venom” beset by two of most diligent writers and documenters of greater Boston’s hardcore graffiti at this moment in time. I have always been intrigued by the story of Eddie Brock, aka “Venom” as it was laid out in the Amazing Spiderman comics that I read as a kid in the late eighties. My favorite episodes are actually the prequels to the appearance of Venom that describe Spiderman’s initial encounter with a Toxin lifeform from the Planet of the Symbiotes. Spiderman bonds with this entity; it becomes his new biological spider-suit and endows him with superhuman and telepathic powers that are beyond even those that he acquired from a radio-active spider-bite. Of course, Spiderman is initially elated by his enhanced abilities, but he gradually discovers that the Symbiote is in fact malignant and evil; it is using Spidey’s powers to its own ends as much as he is using it to his own. As a kid, I hung a poster in my room of Spiderman in his original bright red-and-blue suit in a brick-walled sewer duct beneath Manhattan. In this large panel by Todd McFarlane, he crouches in front of the limp, black-and-white alien Symbiote that he had nailed to the wall with wooden spikes driven into the mortar. Later in the story, Peter Parker’s rival Eddie Brock finds the discarded Symbiote and bonds with it, gaining powers similar to Spiderman’s, but Venom is more hulking and psychotic; the effects of the same Toxin upon a looser, less healthy mind… What was once a piece of Spidey’s identity, a part of his very physical being and consciousness, comes back in another form to haunt and do battle with him long, long after their separation.
With that legend in mind, I stepped out to Dorchester, the neighborhood just across the Red Line tracks from my Alma Mater UMass Boston. Sometimes referred to as “The Rock” because of its resemblance to Alcatraz, UMB sits out on Harbor Point, a giant brick-and-mortar monolith designed to be riot-proof by architects of the Kent State era. The school is visible from Dorchester, which is every bit as crowded and built-upward-upon-itself as I remember. The wall in question is nestled between several multi-family, three-story apartment-buildings, I realize that I’m about to paint a Super-Villain that will be visible on a daily basis to twelve or so families in the immediate vicinity. My depiction of Marvel’s iconic anti-hero is executed on a matte black base shaded in MTN blues. Layers of opaque paints by German Montana and translucent whites and greys by Belton give Venom the sickeningly salivating tongue that he’s famous for–a slick, serpentine appendage followed up by sharkish rows of jagged and filthy fangs. He is the stuff of nightmares for neighborhood kids fascinated at first, as I was, by the art itself, and then later by the elegance of the metaphor that it delivers. He is a reminder of what lies over your shoulder, stalking you through the streets and alleyways that were the daily walks of your past.