Who Painted That Giant Mural of James Brown?

<i>Mr. Dynamite</i>, a new mural depicting James Brown at 1437 Main St. in Over-the-Rhine, was dedicated earlier this fall. We spoke to lead artist Jenny Ustick on how she got it on the good foot.
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Photograph by Evan Sgouris

Mr. Dynamite, a new mural depicting James Brown at 1437 Main St. in Over-the-Rhine, was dedicated earlier this fall. We spoke to lead artist Jenny Ustick on how she got it on the good foot.

The Location:
“It was a music street, and ArtWorks wanted something different than what had been done with the other murals—something more modern, more energetic.”

The Canvas:
“It had been a while since I painted on a wall from the late 1800s. [It] had seen some better days. You’ve got all these bumps and lumps and gaps and holes.”

The Process:
“It’s a bit like a glorified paint by number. Me and the 12 apprentices had it all mapped out—this area is in this color, fill it in and move on.”

The Man:
“I looked at a few images of James Brown, particularly from the time he was recording for King Records in Cincinnati, and found one that showed him on fire.”

The Inspiration:
“There’s something difficult and a little funky about the colors, and I thought that’s absolutely perfect. He had amazing clarity of voice, but boy he could make it gritty.”

The Details:
“Oh my goodness, those teeth were probably the biggest topic of discussion in the final weeks, to get them just right. The hair came together pretty easily.”

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