Image 1 of

Escaping Structure: Daan Botlek’s Public Art

During my Amsterdam residency, I had the chance to visit Rotterdam, a nearby city that is known for its public art and murals. The Dutch city was bombed to smithereens during WWII, and had to be re-built from the ground up. As Rotterdam found its resurgence through modern architecture, it opened its doors to lots and lots of public art. It’s everywhere. The muralists and visual artists that have come out of, or worked their way through, Rotterdam are many. Their work is challenging, inviting and often interactive.

Daan Botlek’s work always struck a chord in me. His white figures offer malleability—they are you; they are me; they are the dreamers; they are the victims. On long property walls, they show humor. In abandoned builds, they show daring and curiosity. On boarded-up windows, they show fear. Escape is a common thread in Botlek’s work, and whoever these beings are, they’re not giving up until they get out.

They’re also friendly. I imagine if I lived somewhere populated by these beings, I’d give them pretend names and backstories. We’d be friends. Where I come from, that’s a sign of good art.