not for sale

Not For Sale. Summer of 2020.

The CURTAINS/FENCES series are public art installations. They are large acrylic paintings on shower curtains with sheer fabric installed on gates. Despite public art being a direct message, my art is an intimate message. My work is sweet, light, and with comforting visuals. The installation plays with lightness and softness against the urban environment. The location plays an important role for these installations – the two locations I’ve selected are on developer’s land in North Philadelphia. Fences are meant to keep something in or out, but these installations suggest belonging and openness. The curtain alludes to an opening for the gate. Although my work is inspired by compassion, it is also inspired by the reality of how marginalized people are treated in the United States. My art touches on intimate desire to imagine a world that is better for one another. The installations are graceful and freely interacting with the environment to give meaning to keep the community together, empowered, and uplifted.

The installation, “NOT FOR SALE” is a painting of a women figure surrounded by plants, “palapas”, and clouds. And, the second installation, “Elders Protect La Tierra” is a painting of an elder peacefully protecting the land as she’s surrounded by pots, flowers, and plants. Both of these installations are inspired by the north Philadelphia residents who are fighting to protect the land from being sold to developers. The installations are located at the Cesar Andreu Iglesias Community Garden. For the past eight years, the garden has been owned by local artist, Cesar Andreu. He has also borrowed empty lots surrounding the area over the years to grow an urban garden for the community. Today, developers are trying to buy the community garden. Also, the developers brought the land around the garden space to build luxury homes. When the community garden leaders asked the developer if they would be open to donate part of the land to the community garden, the developer responded by fencing only around the garden beds.


The “NOT FOR SALE” illustration shows the figure rooted to the ground surrounded by plants and marigold flowers. I focused on marigold flowers which are native flowers of Mexico which is the home of Cesar Andreu. The black clouds hold “palapa” homes which represent the past colonization of stolen lands in the America continent.


The “Elders Protect La Tierra ” is inspired by the Puerto Rican and Dominican Republican elders that immigrated to the U.S. These women created common wealth for their children by purchasing homes and land in North Philadelphia. However, the Land Bank tried to sell their land to developers taking advantage of the elders who only speak Spanish. These women were the first to give their testimony to the local office, the land bank, and to the developers. This installation is a painting of an elder women holding flowers and surrounded by pots with a message to protect the land.
Both of the installations hang on the developer’s gate that surrounds the garden bed. While the actions of the developer is meant to keep the community from reaching their garden, the installations are a reminder that the community believes in a world where the people and the land belong together.

©2021 All artwork by Manuela Guillén
Do not use the artwork without the artists permission