'I decided to turn my hobby into a bit of a Robin Hood thing.'
Potholes on roads are not only an infrastructure obstacle but also hamper the aesthetics of a city and its architecture. However, art can have answers to implausible problems. It is a powerful medium to draw people's attention to things that matter. An artist from Chicago is doing just that by relaying social messages while beautifying his city by fixing these unwanted potholes. Jim Bachor's innovative way includes mending the potholes with glass and marble mosaic instead of leaving them simply filled up with cement and concrete, reports The Washington Post. “Everybody hates potholes - doesn’t matter who you are, young, old, rich, poor, Bachor said to CBS News. He added, "So you’re walking down the street and you expect it’s a nasty asphalt street that’s pockmarked and whatnot. And then you might happen to see tulips, maybe, where there shouldn’t be. And so it’s just that little bit of unexpected joy, which is kind of a fun thing for me."
When he began in 2013, he installed the phrase "pothole" in black and white marble in a road divot in Chicago. He explained that "people loved it and thought it was funny." Bachor cuts hundreds of pieces of Italian glass and marble to construct the sometimes controversial mosaics. He does all his work by himself without any help from city officials or the authorities. Nor does he take any kind of permission and does not know if his work is legally valid. "I decided to turn my hobby into a bit of a Robin Hood thing," he said. "If I had to ask for permission, I wouldn’t be doing this."
Bachor developed an interest in mosaic art while visiting the Pompeii archaeological remains in Italy in the late 1990s. According to his website, he learned that mosaic was used to capture images in ancient times. Moreover, marble and glass materials don't fade and withstand the test of time.
He came back to his home in Chicago and began experimenting with Mosiac while working in advertising. However, when he lost his job, an unexpected event channeled his love for mosaic art into a career. "In 2013, the potholes in my neighborhood were particularly bad. I remember thinking that potholes were an unsolvable problem that was fixed temporarily, then always had to be redone." Bachor said.
"I thought, ‘Why not take this durable art form that I’m so passionate about and fix this problem?’ "
In Chicago, Bachor has filled roadway craters with mosaics of a TV remote control, kittens, a Twitter blue check mark and the phrases "I couldn't do this if I was Black" and "LIAR." It makes people stop, stare and think about the issues that Bachor wants to highlight through his work. He's created mosaics of dead rats, pigeons and cockroaches across several places, including New York. The New York Post dubbed him the "Pothole Picasso."
Bachor was employed in D.C. by the #RelistWolves Campaign, a privately funded group attempting to reclassify Northern Rocky Mountain wolves as endangered. One of the group's co-founders, Samantha Attwood, said that in order to raise awareness of their initiatives, they hired Bachor to cover a number of potholes with mosaics of wolves. He did that successfully by carefully choosing the potholes.
Given the increasing number of complaints about them in recent years, Bachor had no shortage of potholes to pick from for the wolves. However, he has to make his choices carefully so as to not disturb the traffic in a busy city. He explained, "The perfect pothole is actually really hard to find. It has to be on the edge of a road that isn’t too beat up, and people have to be able to see it from five or six feet away."
Bachor has also produced 108 pieces of art, including commissioned installations for streets in Nashville, Philadelphia, New York City, and Los Angeles. "Using the same materials, tools and methods of the archaic craftsmen, I create mosaics that speak of modern things in an ancient voice," he wrote on his website. "My work locks into mortar unexpected concepts drawn from the present."