At 250 Dr. Martin Luther King Junior Street North, a scattering of images in the style of a “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” ad spreads out on a light blue wall, as if the wall were an old comic book-style pamphlet held out wide.
This mural by Morning Breath – artists Doug Cunnngham and Jason Noto – faces north in a small parking lot with two other vivid murals on this busy street. The mural takes up the entire wall, 101 feet wide and 15 feet high – with black, white and red line drawings against a pale blue background.
The images unfold as if the wall were an old comic book style pamphlet held out wide.
The design was brush painted, inspired by the business that’s been at this location since 1926 — the Coney Island Sandwich Shop. That business and the artists have roots in New York, so there are subtle nods to the city throughout.
On the left is a large cartoon man’s face tilted slightly, with a garish, wide-open grin. Hair parted in the middle with old-fashioned waves on each side of the temple, arched black eyebrows over wide red eyes. The mad grin is missing a tooth.
This face is the artists’ version of the iconic Coney Island Steeplechase “Funny Face” that welcomed guests from 1908 through 1964. So the family who founded this shop would have seen it, when they visited. Even now, that grinning face appears on shops and merchandise at Coney Island.
Just below the face, the word “Look” in red, with white snow resting on the letters, next to an arrow pointing to the left, that points to a small cut-out in the wall. This was where African Americans would be served if they came to the restaurant in its early days.
Below and to the right, a small black star, and a palm facing out with the fingers close together.
To the right of the grinning face, the phrase “How to CRACK the S-T-R-A-N-G-E SECRETS” is painted in large black letters. The word “CRACK” is in capitals, splintered and cracked. “Strange” is stretched tall just below, spread out with dashes between the letters.
The word “secrets” is at the bottom of the wall, in capital italic letters. There’s a word balloon in white just above it, saying “You’re there with popularity,” and pointing to the right, to a figure of Popeye with red hat and pants, and a black shirt, forearms bulging. One of Popeye’s forearms sports a tattoo of a bearded man, the other shows the Playboy bunny logo.
To the right of Popeye, in another section of the wall, is a large pair of old-fashioned glasses with angled black frames and red lenses, and wide-open white eyes. The glasses are a tribute to the artist Casey Paquet, who passed away in 2018.
Below the glasses, the phrase “Ideas are a Dime a Dozen” is painted above a red hand pointing to the left, and a large hardback book with a black cover. The spine of the book reads “CP 1977 through 2018,” another tribute to Paquet. The front cover spells out “Para CP” vertically, in red, beside a line drawing of a sword swallower, a trick Casey practiced.
In the center of the wall, a huge red hand holds a pamphlet almost as tall as the wall, that reads “Welcome to Fear City,” with a skeleton in a black cowl. This is a reference to a 1970s scaremongering pamphlet called “Fear City: A Survival Guide for Visitors to the City of New York,” published by the New York Council on Public Safety.
To the right, the cartoon outline of an open eye, looking to the right, above the phrase “I’ve got a secret,” in quotes. A dashed line leads from the eye to an old rotary pay phone dial, to the right. A black arrow arcs toward the phone.
The words “Picture You,” “NERVOUS,” and “still wondering,” are stacked on top of each other, in different styles and fonts. and to the right, a large cartoon man painted from waist-up, in a black eye mask, a red jacket and blue tie. He holds a rapier in his right hand, horizontally, across his body, like a villain in a B-movie, or a comic book.
Just above the villain’s shoulder, a large cartoon drawing of open lips in black, surrounding white teeth. The words, “Jittery Nerves,” are painted inside the mouth, titled at different, jittery angles.
“GHASTLY STARTLING SECRETS of Mystery” is painted to the right, under a pair of aviator sunglasses with red lenses, and a woman’s wide-open white eyes and long black lashes, peering to the left. And on the right edge of the mural, a red, cartoon, smiling devil’s face with horns and a thin, curved mustache, is painted as tall as the wall.
Morning Breath’s creative partnership began with skateboard designs in 1996. Now they operate a boutique design studio in Brooklyn.
They painted another SHINE mural in 2015, that was lost from view, due to new construction on Central Avenue.
Video by Chop ‘Em Down Films