Moose Bubblegum Bubble
A write up I did based on this mural I passed by each day on my way to school.
Jacob Watts, describes himself as a Photoshop wizard, but his photo-illustrative mural, “Moose Bubblegum Bubble” really makes me believe in a world with moose that chew bubblegum and dogs that smoke cigars and play poker. The mural is exactly what its title states — A moose blowing some bubble gum. You might have a brief moment of confusion whether it is a moose, an elk, a deer or reindeer, however its flat antlers give it away (after you desperately google it when you get into a debate with your friends). Part of the Wabash Arts Corridor, located on the corner of Congress and Wabash, it seems friendly, and next to another large mural reading the words “HARMONY” — truly harmonious.
There are some days, when the mural looks like a billboard for a Geico commercial, if they used moose instead of the lizard. And somedays, it feels like an overwhelmingly large presence is looming right above me. A part of me just wants to slap on some aesthetically placed text on it, commercialize it and introduce the moose to every home and city in America. And part of me looks at his gaze for comfort. The bubble gum and the moose together makes this image worthwhile. Just an image of a moose, wouldn’t hold anybodies attention and just an image of bubble gum would be mistaken for literally anything spherical in appearance, just candy colored. The bubblegum, tries and succeeds at building a relationship between two very unlikely concepts.
Every time I pass by this mural; this moose seems more free. Even though he is confined by the dimensions of the mural and the fake blue background, he is free to make his own choice and free to eat bubblegum. He is more carefree in the presence of so many people, cars, buildings and restaurants, that were strange to him once upon a time. He seems to recognize my gait on my way to class where I’m frantically checking to see if I have time to get coffee and glance knowingly at him waiting for the signal light to turn green. He assures me that I can get to class on time and get the cup of coffee as long as I take a moment to breathe. The dull sepia tone of the mural, against the piercing teal blue, makes it seem like the whole scenario was a past reality. Evolution went strangely wrong and that bubblegum blowing moose should have been the future instead of humans. It seems like a reminder of an extinct reality, especially hung above a parking lot.
Does the moose have other friends? Maybe somebody eating an emergency I’m-too-stressed donut at Dunkin Donuts every week? Or Someone on a run who seems far too disciplined to look at the moose. And did he befriend any other hairy creatures or does he extend this relationship to humans only. It made me a little bit jealous. Jealous at all the people he got to know. Jealous at how many times he looked comfortingly at other students scrambling to get their act together too. Did they go visit him every now and then? Did they pet the moose and take their relationship another step further?
As I pass the mural today, very well knowing that I have to write about it, I can only think about “Is the moose truly as free as he has seemed all these years?” When I take my time looking at it, examining and observing it, the moose seems stuck in this narrative I’ve created and unable to move. My last thoughts, after reminding myself about how this was just a printed image of a moose, and trying to remove the him from my imposed narrative were “Is chewing gum safe for moose? What if they have certain ingredients that do not sit well with their digestive system?” When I contemplated the inner life of my moose friend I only thought about the things that I had not considered.
As I sat to write my piece, I realized that I just assumed what lied behind the constraints of the mural. I always assumed the moose had legs, but what if he had human feet? Were his antlers actually made of papier mache? Does he have other moose friends who also blow bubblegum? Is consuming bubblegum common in mooseland? Does he have a family? Friends? Potluck dinners? I know he does; moose seems like a concerned father but also one who assures his children about their inhibitions and also happens to make the best cherry pie in the world.
I tried, hard to let the animal just be an animal. To be alarmed by his consumption of bubble gum but only in the capacity of artistic choice. But I couldn’t see the moose as just a photo illustration. He now exists as a vivid part of my imagination and a friendship I will continue to have. As I shuffle between moose-ings and writing this piece as an art critic, I decided to peak at Jacob Watts website, to find the birthplace of moose, and all my fascination to him. It gave me a glimpse into the world that moose lives in — giant grizzly bears eating birthday cake, deers playing with plastic balloons and rhinoceros naked in your bathtub. The land is devoid of humans, a rather comforting fact, and is green with a tiny bit of editing on the Photoshop vibrancy scale. The moose doesn’t seems still anymore, he goes home to this family every night, spends time with them and returns every morning to gaze at his people.