To many homeowners, weeds are some of the most unsightly plants in their gardens. They are unwelcome and every time they are seen, a form of weed killer is pulled from the store to destroy them. Unfortunately, they keep coming back. Others are so strong that they sprout through the cracks of pavement and sidewalks. So even if weeds are kept away from the fertile soil the garden, they will always find a way – they’re such strong-willed.
Such powerful and resilient characteristic of weeds is what Swiss-born American artist Mona Caron idolizes in her murals that feature massive, towering weeds.
Mona believes that weeds are beautiful plants and have a role to play in life. They are somewhat a symbol of people and issues in society that many others often consider of less importance, yet they have to be addressed. That tells why Mona often collaborates with local and international, social and environmental movements for labor rights, water rights, and climate justice.
As part of her “WEEDS” project, Mona has created murals in many places around the world including her adoptive city San Francisco, Portland, Sao Paulo, Colombia, Taiwan, and Spain.
She usually chooses the location of each mural in resonance with the “WEEDS” series metaphor – resilience and resistance. They are places where alternatives are being established, places that are making a difference while resisting the entropy of our world.
Take, for example, mural + assemblage collaboration with Dustin Fosnot in San Francisco. The work is a poetic representation of the precarious condition that many people find themselves in as a result of the real estate crisis in the city.
A recurring theme in her murals is the large scale portraits of seemingly unremarkable plants, in which the difference between the artistry’s heroic magnitude and the plant’s natural fragility or lack of appreciation is meant as a tribute to the resilience of all those beings that are often deemed unfit within the designs of society, but keep growing anyway.
Such is the narrative behind her soaring artwork in the city of Kaohsiung, Lingya District, Taiwan.
“I’m known to paint weeds. The plants in this mural are hardly weeds: their medicinal properties are appreciated enough to make them widely cultivated. But I painted them growing, like weeds do, from an inhospitable ground, a disturbed environment. Our disturbed environment,” she said.
“But from those beacons in the dark, healing plants grow upwards, pushing beyond our predicament. The healing plants assert themselves somehow, reaching that elusive clear sky, rarely seen in many cities like Kaohsiung.”
Mona Caron has created multiple pieces of art with other artists from around the world. In 2015, she went to the depths of Medellin, Colombia and together with Zatelite Afrobeat, they created a 500ft long mural on a convex wall on the fast lane side of a one-way street. This was for the 4th World Bicycle Forum of that year.
The mural unfurls to passers-by, starting small and growing to something big from left to right. According to Mona, the mural symbolizes the impact of the small, simple act of riding a bike in the city, something that can eventually bring about pronounced transformations, which further the liveliness and livability of the urban setup.
Other collaborations include Mona and Liqen mural in Vigo, Spain, Mona + Apexer at Trail Head in San Francisco, as well as a remarkable Collapsible painting kit and self-growing mural by her and SofT Zulah.
In line with her activist trends, Mona Caron creates artwork to support issues in society. Her art has been used in labor rights groups, water rights groups and climate justice rallies with organizations ranging from 350.org to Zero-waste Detroit, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Land is Life, and US Social Forum.
A prime example is her 2016 Mujeres Custodias mural in central Quito, Ecuador. Featuring 6 Amazonian and 3 Andean indigenous women, the mural was created to raise their profile along with other women leading the defense from fossil fuel extraction, mining activities, and agricultural laws that endanger food sovereignty and abolish ancestral culture in the region.
A vast majority of her murals created for mass street actions involved collaboration with her longtime friend and partner-in-art, fellow artivist and puppetista, David Solnit. However, her social involvement transcends mural creations. In 2015, Mona made a host of paintings directly on banners and flyers for the COP21 Climate Summit in Paris.
Among other things, she does illustrations for books, posters for political or music events, and news editorials, using watercolor and block print techniques.
Mona Caron was born and raised in the Centovalli area of Ticino, Switzerland. She studied English literature at the University of Zurich before moving to San Francisco, where she went to the Academy of Art University and graduated with honors BFA in illustration.
But her true love for botany is largely owed to three aspects; her childhood’s natural environment, her mother’s teachings as well as influence from her father, Peter Bissegger, who is a theater set designer.