Checking in with Bob Dylan muralist Kobra
By Sheila Regan
Minneapolis is gaga for the work of Kobra, a Brazilian artist who has set up shop on Hennepin Avenue and Fifth Street, making a ginormous mural that so far features three motley-patterned visages of Bob Dylan’s face at various stages of his career. The in-process piece has taken social media by storm, with people sharing their opinions on Dylan’s place in Twin Cities history and snapping selfies in front of what has instantly become an iconic Minneapolis spot.
We stopped by to check in on how Eduardo Kobra and his team of Brazilian artists (plus local artists Erin Sayer and Yuya Negishi) are holding up. Kobra doesn’t speak much English, but we chatted with him with the help of Hennepin Theater Trust’s communications director Karen Nelson, who happens to speak Portuguese. HTT is overseeing the project, which is being commissioned by the building owners, who are a business unit of Goldman Sachs Asset Management.
Can you say something about the process of creating this work, how you researched Bob Dylan and the history of Minneapolis?
Kobra: I didn’t decide anything while I was here. All the planning I did in advance in my studio, in Brazil. The idea is a timeline, showing different phases of Bob Dylan.
Were you very familiar with Bob Dylan before you started working on this project?
Yes, Bob Dylan’s very well known in Brazil, many artists have been inspired by him. There’s a Brazilian artist named Raul Seixas. He’s a singer who was inspired a lot by Bob Dylan’s work, and through this artist Dylan became very well known in Brazil.
How does Dylan’s music speak to you personally?
The mural also has the title of one of his songs: “The Times They are a Changin’.” Personally, I like Dylan more in his earlier phase with the harmonica and the guitar.
Can you say something about your time here in the Twin Cities. What do you think of Minneapolis so far?
I haven’t had a lot of chances [to experience the city]. We’ve been working 12 hours a day. We ate lunch at Rosa Mexicana, and we went to the State Fair.
What did you do there?
We went on rides and ate hot dogs. I worked at an amusement park for 12 years. I was a painter there.
Why do you think public art is so important in our society?
I started painting when I was 12, in the streets. I’ve painted murals for 14 years. I went to prison when I was young for graffiti, so times have changed. Now a city can be supportive of artists like that. I want art that can be shared in the street so people can see it. I see the mural as a present to the city.