A few moments’ study unravels the mural’s visual metaphor. With the exception of one iconic central figure, Common Threads depicts real, contemporary young people imitating postures of historical figurines. Each pair – human and figurine – is painted in the same scale. Some are dozens of feet tall, while others are only twice as large as life. Some pairings mirror each other from opposing sides of the composition; other stand side-by-side. For example, a painted alcove on the right near the top shelters a formal porcelain couple in European court dress. From the left side of the building, in a matching alcove, two young African American teens, casually dressed in denim, stare out with the same cool demeanor.
Somewhat isolated, though at the center of all this activity, stands the meditative figure of a young African American woman, Tameka Jones, who was a student at the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts when the mural was painted. Dressed in a deep pink blouse, she plays abstractedly with the end of one of her long braids and gazes down on the street below, as if pondering something beyond the mural. Her pose is not imitated by any other figure. She stands alone, with an authority and inner composure that transform her into a timeless icon of beauty and grace.
Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation
PA Council on the Arts
Ellis Gimbel Charitable Trust
Ernst & Young
National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)
City of Philadelphia