“We’re all spots on the same cow”

The boxes of giant stencils, heaps of spray paint cans, and two ladders are finally cleared away from the front of the barn. Finally: the finished giant 18 by 13-ish foot World Cow mural stands displayed just off the side of the road past Rumney Elementary School– it’s local artist DJ Barry’s latest project. And it’s plenty of reason for anyone on the road below to slow down and turn their heads for a better view. Before it came to life on this barn, DJ’s cow with the world map on its back is a design that he’s been thinking about expanding on, but never before has he taken on a project this big

A few hours earlier, I got the chance to see the painting in progress. As I walked up the grassy slope towards the barn DJ and and his wife Cindy were taping up the stencil for the cow’s left eye. The black background and white silhouette were already added in preparation, all that needed to happen were the details. Each stencil DJ uses is cut to have removable pieces for the paint to go, some of which would have shapes in themselves for a second layer of detail. I watched first as the black filled in through, then as Cindy handed him the inner cutout for the white splotches that’d indicate where the eye itself is. Technically he used the wrong type of white paint for that part, he says generally to us both. But it’s not a big deal, his conversation with Cindy went something like this:

“Oh, could you bring up the other cans of white when you pass by a bit later?”

“Is the paint running?”

“It’s about to, I can tell– wait, I need the sponge. Yep, that’s gonna need touch up.”

It was all pretty easy-going, even with the occasional “oops” moment. Stencils give unparalleled accuracy to spray-painters, DJ tells me later, but you can still afford to improvise.


Still looking great! Even with that uneven surface!

 

That slight problem averted, a sleep-deprived but enthusiastic DJ Barry hopped down from the ladder, pulled off his respirator, and turned to me with a smile.

Wearing a t-shirt he made of the same design as his mural, he put me to work drying and organizing the stencils he’d already used. They varied from around 2 by 3 feet to around 3 by 6 feet, all of which had to be aligned and sometimes used multiple times to get all the details in place. Not much in the way of fancy equipment, either. Just boxes, spray paint, stencils, and a few extra useful tools.

“Let’s find the rest of Asia first. Keep Europe together for now, can’t mess that one up. People would definitely notice, and probably get mad at me.”


DJ Barry paints the Middle East

 

It was hard work. Although it should’ve been one of the cooler days of the week, the sun still beat down without many clouds in the sky. With the big respirator on his face and no close shade to retreat to, it was up and down the ladder for the first, top half of the cow’s design, which also happened to have a bigger portion of the continents. All while juggling the paint can, the stencil, the tape that sticks better to your hands than the paper, and the increasingly ratty-looking manila folder which actually turned out to be a very important, multi-purpose tool. As soon as the wind would kick up, all the important continent-shaped stencils would go flying; it’d be a race to grab them all and throw albums or boxes over top.

DJ Barry isn’t a full time artist, he’s actually a telecommunications analyst at the Central Vermont Medical Center (1). But when he gets the chance, he stencils and sprays paints all kinds of characters– whether it be on the sides of his house or in New York City.

You may have seen his work before. Those apes swinging across Langdon Street in Montpelier, or the sign by the pocket park on Main Street that says either “I Love You” or “I Hate You” depending on the angle you approach it from (2)(4). He’s even published his first children’s’ picture book Hiyo the Long Dragon. Whatever he plans on making, DJ Barry’s main goal, other than to have fun, is to inspire the community to come together.
So while watching DJ paint I asked him: is there a specific point to this World Cow?

Part of it is diversity, he answered, “we’re all spots on the same cow.” And there’s no better way to communicate a message like that than on an animal. A cow is something that people, at least in Vermont, can relate to and enjoy from across both the age and political spectrums. When he was first designing it, he tells me, he would start showing his daughter different continents and countries. Soon she knew where Canada was, where Asia and Africa were. A plain map is too abstract and boring. Making it about a giant cow, however, makes it more relatable and interesting– especially for kids that young.

It was wonderful to watch as this massive painting came together. More and more with each splash of paint, random splotches became intricate parts of the bigger picture. And now there’s an end product that’ll probably be seen from that road for years to come.

Nearly at the end of the long day, we finally stood back to take it all in. Touch-ups were in need, one or two more main stencils to do. But all of those amorphous appearing cutouts had become a single, gigantic World Cow painting that looked really, really good.

The finished World Cow!

 

“You know what sounds great right now? A creemee.”

I agreed.

 

Works Cited

Brazill, Meg. “Talking Art With DJ Barry.” Seven Days, Seven Days, 13 June 2018,
www.sevendaysvt.com/vermont/talking-art-with-dj-barry/Content?oid=2597958. (1)

Mills, Stephen. “Yin and Yang Sign to Prompt Public Discourse.” Times Argus, 15 May 2018,
www.timesargus.com/articles/yin-and-yang-sign-to-prompt-public-discourse/. (2)

Sari, Kymelya. “Montpelier’s Langdon Street Celebrates With Art.” Seven Days, Seven Days, 11
June 2018,
www.sevendaysvt.com/vermont/montpeliers-langdon-street-celebrates-with-art/Content?oid
=3430250. (3)