Old Lovers Meet at 14th and Swann

Faded, crumbling, unlikely to survive too many more DC winters or 14th Street-area renovations, I love this mural. It raises a million questions.

From the perch of an old row house wall overlooking the Swan Auto parking lot, emerging from a pool? pond? ocean?—two Dr. Seuss-like figures—humans? balding angels? fruit flies?—share a fading yellow apple. Lips locked on the fruit, their eyes are closed passionately. One wears a small bejeweled crown, but otherwise they appear naked. They are LOVERS, says the painting in simple black font, a status reinforced by the word “madreselva” painted in upside-down and backwards letters below. Madreselva means honeysuckle in Spanish, a flower that is supposedly associated with “the bond of love,” or according to other sources, “generosity.” Either way, we are getting a sneak peek at two individuals’ affection through this mustard yellow, circular window….  Or is it a puzzle piece? (What are those little nodes around the frame?)

The ocean, the apple, their nakedness; that the left figure’s wings? body? appear to fit the curves of the water perfectly—not quite drawn from dust, but certainly drawn from nature… all allude to Adam and Eve. But these figures are completely androgynous. Or at least, not male and female. An ode to homosexuality, then, maybe? But especially with the crown in the picture, their relationship is unclear.

Sadly, it might stay that way for a while.

The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities has no record of the mural in its database, as it was not a publicly-commissioned piece, says Deirdre Ehlen of the Commission. (Though, notably, the organization operates an ever-growing website that continuously maps public art and allows viewers to share information on anonymous or otherwise cryptic pieces.) Robert Gamzeh, a realtor who handles some of the adjacent properties, could not speak to the mural’s history. Mark Johnson, co-owner of the Hunted House vintage furniture store (part of the same complex), only knows that it has been there since as long as he can remember. Maybe two decades, he says.

Long-lasting love!

All photos by the author.

Jordana Merran

In June 2010, Jordana left behind her parents’ Montgomery County nest– and twenty-minute drives to the grocery store, finally– to start her freshman year of life as a recent grad and genuine DCist. Making next-to-no use of her economics degree, but every ounce of her imagination and longstanding love for writing, she spends her time practicing public relations; blogging and freelancing; exploring offbeat interests like documentary film; and pondering the murals that pepper her walk (or Circulator ride) home from work every day. She can be reached at jordana (at) welovedc (dot) com; or via Twitter @JWTKinDC.

5 thoughts on “Old Lovers Meet at 14th and Swann

  1. Pingback: SYMHM: Hump Day June 29 Edition | Borderstan

  2. So that “ever-growing website that continuously maps public art and allows viewers to share information on anonymous or otherwise cryptic pieces” referenced above is actually a public project that the city is a partner on. The project’s called “ArtAround” and it lives at http://theartaround.us, so everyone can use it for their art mystery needs.

    Quick blurb: ArtAround is an ever-growing archive (for web, Android, and iPhone) of public art and art venues in DC. [Disclosure alert! Founder speaking here.] My dream is to gather more crowdsourced knowledge (like the stuff referenced in this article) into it’s archive, so if anyone reading this article /does/ happen to know more about this piece, please share it with, well, everyone here: http://theartaround.us/arts/lovers

    And let us know in the comments of WeLoveDC, of course!