Kevin Darmaine (New Jersey, USA)

Code to Freedom: A Legend De-constructed

Assisted by Justin McCarthy, Kuldeep Singh, and Dareece Walker

The quilts used to convey messages along the Underground Railroad inspired this mural. The Underground Railroad was a trail of safe houses and relationships that enabled slaves to flee the southern chattel slavery via northern states and Canada. Legend has it that quilts were left along the path stitched with coded messages to help guide escapees on their way to freedom. The Amtrak line runs north and south through Newark.

The mural explores how a quilt might act as a form of hidden language; it uses a series of shapes and abstracted compositions dispersed along the length of the wall. It is meant to give the viewer a sense of looking at coded messages and hidden meanings as they travel the walking path. Shifts in the background’s color invoke the feeling of a scene change. The abstractions are inspired by Gee’s Bend quilts, nautical symbols, and kente cloth.

The artist: Kevin Darmanie

Kevin Darmanie, originally from Trinidad & Tobago, lives and works in Newark, New Jersey. He has produced paintings, murals, installations, comic books, and works on paper. Darmanie’s watercolors originally incorporated tropes of graphic novels to re-examine Caribbean attitudes, social critique, and introspection. The artist’s interest in social media has led him to work in watercolors. This medium has allowed him to recycle his work, as unsuccessful canvases become supports for new abstractions.

In 2009, Darmanie began working with Newark’s City Murals program. He created three murals with the program since. That includes: Wellwisher at JFK School, Reaching for the Stars at North Star Academy, and Kidults at Casa de Don Pedro. He’s also created a piece for the Urban League. Portraits will be his fifth mural with the city of Newark.