Mural

Mural Latex, Linoleum, Plywood 8' x 28'

I realize I was absent last week and barely visible the previous week, but I have been busy constructing a mural that was completed last Friday. Results are above. You’ll need to click on the image to see the larger version. Sorry about the tree, but it wouldn’t move. This mural is on Tryon Street in front of McColl Center for Visual Art.

The project started with the “community” theme similar to my previous “Neighborhood” and “Construction” series, and I did decide early to use the “Construction” format as a blue print. There was an audience participation aspect to this one involving the crowd from the “Blues, Brews, and Barbeque” event held uptown. It was a great opportunity to take advantage of the larger community that descended onto the event, creating an instant community as well. So I had to organize something that would take best advantage of that energy.

Using the “Construction” format, I decided the thing to do was to give each person who participated the opportunity to “decorate” their individual unit within the larger community building. So each person was given a linoleum floor tile, white, a small variety of latex house paints, and some sponges and brushes. After a forecast of rain, the event was a beautiful day with a huge crowd and we ended up with about 230 individual 12″ x 12″ painted tiles. It could not have worked out better.

To back up a bit, the “Construction” series (you can view it on my website (www.ashleylathe.com) was based on the premise of an exploding population that everywhere seems to be experiencing. This explosion is represented as condominium units stacked and layered across the page bleeding off every edge. The sky is ALMOST obliterated out by the massive structure except for the unfinished windows, most giving a peak into the blue space beyond. The dynamics of the growth are represented by the fact that they are developing condominiums (hence the title) and formally the units never quite match one another in size, shape, color, or window adornment. The unity and variety gives the structure an energized feel as the units push and pull from the viewer and each other.

I thought this was vital to the concept; the formal energy of the units from never harmonizing. But I had 230 individual 12″ x 12″ tiles, exactly the same size. So what I did was break up the flat facade of the mural surface and literally push and pull each individual tile forward and back. I did this by layering squares of plywood within a grid in a random depth order across the surface of the support. Confusing I know, but instead of the tiles being applied flat to the hanging panels, the panel surface was layered around with some areas triple thick, some double thick, and some areas just the main panel.

What took the longest were the windows. The final mural is supposed to be a massive condominium complex, each unit hand painted by a participant. But to make it a condominium complex, each unit had to have a window to bridge the reality of the tile toward a living quarter. So I had to paint windows, each with a different configuration and design, on each of the 230+ tiles. Additionally, with each tile, I did my best to stay fully respectful of what the person painted. I avoided painting over text when possible, I worked around the best parts of the paintings, and I generally tried to make sure that each window and it’s pattern worked with what the person had already applied. And I didn’t actually paint tried-and-true windows, rather motifs suggestive of windows.

So if you’re still reading at this point, here’s a close up of the far right panel, the only one that didn’t have shade when I shot these. You’ll need to click on the image to get the larger view. With this you can get a better idea of how it all came together. If you look closely you can see some shadowing that exposes the layering of the units. Note too my intention on the blue of the windows matching the actual sky, a little tromp l’oeil trickery to make the mural seem “punched out” exposing sky instead of the actual mud behind the thing. Okay, so the blues didn’t match as I had hoped, but no one would have picked up on that anyway. Cut me some slack.

Mural detail

In conclusion, thanks to everyone that came out and painted a tile for the project. And to everyone that called and left a message in the past couple weeks, I shall call back. Scout’s honor.

Train Charcoal

This one is hot off the press, drew it just today start to finish. It’s a big one, about 4′ x 5′ done in charcoal. This is a train configuration I saw a few months back at the cement factory a couple blocks away. The graffiti I embellished from another train. With a graphic design background, a little text in an image always makes me giddy.

Train Sketch 4

Train Sketch 4 Watercolor

This one I sketched between the last two, didn’t care for it, so I left it off. People seem to dig it, so I’m back-pedaling and including it here. There’s some subtlety in the darks of the trucks that are lost here, at least on my monitor.

There’s something satisfying about riding alongside a moving train, when the road runs parallel to a good track and you happen to saddle next to one moving about the same pace as you are. It happened to me coming home today, a full line of open-topped hoppers labeled “Top Gon” (which always makes me think of Top Gun, but I think is a proprietary brand of rail car) in various shades of rust and weather damage. It reminded me of why I started these in the first place.