The mural that Marni Manning created during the Pow! Wow! DC festival is a metaphor for cutting negativity out of one’s life. (Kery Murakami/Express)

Marni Manning was raised to assume the best in others. It was well-intentioned, but trusting in others has also led to her being betrayed.

She doesn’t want to get into the details. But there is pain in her voice when she talks about it.

“I’ve been so trained to be accommodating that I’m not considering what ... I want or what’s good to me,” she said.

But Manning said she’s making some changes to stand up for herself and cut the negative parts of her life out.

Manning explained all this a couple of Monday mornings ago near a wall along the Metropolitan Branch Trail, just north of the NoMa Metro station.

It’s an urban path that’s separated from the Metro tracks by concrete and barbed wire. Occasionally someone jogs or bikes by.

The day before, Manning had drawn a sketch on the wall of a woman whose long hair is on fire.

With giant scissors, the figure cuts off her hair before the flames can get any closer.

“I’ve discovered that to keep oneself safe you should cut away the parts of your life that might cause you harm,” Manning said, as she painted the flame red, and the hair purple, like her own.

Manning’s mural, which was finished last week, is surrounded by six others on that section of the trail. They are among 16 created in the NoMa neighborhood for Pow! Wow! DC, the local version of an annual international mural painting festival.

The new murals add color to gray blank walls, and provide a window into the minds and lives of the people laboring over them.


Sarah Jamison’s mural for the Pow! Wow! DC festival explores complicated feelings about social media. (Kery Murakami/Express)

About fifty yards from the blazing hair, the dueling ideas that are often on Sarah Jamison’s mind were appearing on the wall.

Like Manning, she had never painted a mural before, and the work that took her nearly a week was different from sitting at her table making drawings.

The night before, she had come after dark to project her drawing on the wall, to serve as a guide as she drew.

Thunderstorms had pounded the wall afterwards, but it hadn’t washed her work away.

As she painted in the morning’s sun, with red paint on her leg just below cut-off blue jeans, the grass-cutter held by a man in Metro overalls whirred loudly. Every few minutes a train rumbled by.

Jamison thinks a lot about memes and the other images that bombard us on the internet.

She said she’s inspired by the fact that new bits of that art appear on her phone every day. But she’s not completely comfortable with how these images are ubiquitous and may even have the power to disrupt our democracy.

The meme-inspired images she painted on the wall, of Homer Simpson, and hearts signifying “likes,” seemed random, much like what appears on social media.

They seemed lighthearted, and inconsequential, like what you share with friends.

Jamison stood on tiptoes on a stepladder. She wanted them to be giant, she said, so they would be “very literally looming over, and dwarfing people as they walk by.”