At 6 a.m. on a sunny Saturday earlier this fall, Somerville resident Liz LaManche arrived at the spacious Kendall Plaza, bearing an arsenal of string, chalk, and paint rollers.
She began with the chalk, sketching out long straight lines. She enlisted an assistant to act as a human compass, holding one end of a string while she walked around with the chalk at the other end, drawing perfect circles all over the concrete.
Once the plan was in place, LaManche obscured the chalk lines with layers of yellow, red, blue, lavender, green, and orange paint. Twenty-two hours later, ground mural “100% Human” was complete.
To appreciate the full scope of the piece, it’s best to get a bird’s eye view from the 24th floor or so of Kendall Center. There, you’re able to appreciate the work’s distinctive shape: “a network diagram of interconnected humanity,” LaManche calls it. To me, it looks like a big, colorful molecule, the perfect embellishment for the ground that Kendall’s biotech researchers, software engineers, and MIT undergrads walk on.
But when LaManche designed “100% Human,” she knew most people wouldn’t be experiencing the work from the 24th floor of Kendall Center—rather, it’s designed with a grounded audience in mind. LaManche wants people to “play” with the shapes—follow the lines, stand in the circles. And it’s only from the ground that you can appreciate the work’s tiniest, but perhaps most important, detail: the small heart painted within each circle.
“While these circles are different colors and sizes, they are all interconnected, each with a unified heart,” LaManche writes on her website.
This message is in keeping with the mission of Oxfam America, the work’s sponsor. It’s an extension of Oxfam’s “Join the 100%” initiative, a campaign that strives “for a future where 100 percent of humanity has the same basic rights,” according to the project’s website.
You’ll need to make time in the next month or so to see “100% Human”—it’ll be scrubbed away before the snowy season can destroy it.
LaManche has over 25 works of public art in her portfolio, most of them local, and many of which contain messages similar to that of “100% Human.” From the dynamic, “Where’s Waldo”-like mural of celebrities at Cambridge Brewing Company to the unmissable “Safety Dance” crosswalk that she created in Medford, LaManche’s work always returns to the theme of humanity, often with a cheeky twist (the Grumpy Cat meme hidden among the celebrities in the CBC mural, for example).
Most recently, you may have caught a glimpse of “100% Human” in the news. Last week, Google employees staged a national walkout, protesting the company’s sexual harassment policies. A Boston Globe photographer captured the moment protesters at the Cambridge office walked out—right over LaManche’s ground mural. “100% Human” is, of course, not the focus of the frame, but it seems appropriate to capture it in this way—streaks of color interspersed with the legs and feet of protesters marching for equality.
For LaManche, the importance of “100% Human” is its message of togetherness.
“We are all one human family; every person deserves love and basic rights,” she says. “We need to … evolve to a level where we can work together on the challenges facing all of us.”