Wednesday, April 23, 2014

New mural

Here is a photo progression of the mural I just completed at at a juvenile detention center in Sussex County. And here’s the story.

The RAL was contacted about completing a mural, as the facility was familiar with what we did with the Family Court Mural two years ago. They had no money for funding, but did buy the paint and drop cloths. The contact really had no ideas about the subject matter, and kept asking me for ideas. I gave him a few, but could have given him thousands, so I asked him to please try to narrow it down. I suggested he go to the kids and ask them what they would like to see in the facility. He mailed me a couple of drawings from two of the kids in residence. They both had the same idea, which was about choices: if you make this choice, you may end up in jail, on drugs, dead, etc. If you make good choices, you may end up with scholarships, a good job, happiness, etc. So at that point, I just started brainstorming about possible ideas – but really had no firm idea until I got there.

The tricky part was whether or not the kids were going to be able to be part of this process, as the facility is very much a prison for kids. Very structured, very guarded, very regimented and very sad. The contact said he would like for just one kid to at least make a brush stroke, which of course was more than alright with me – but that he had to make that happen, as I had extremely limited access to the area. Everyplace I needed to go (including the restroom) had to be escorted. When the kids walked down the hall, I was instructed to face them (not turn my back on them) and not engage. I was asked to report on how many paintbrushes I brought in, because paint brushes could be used as weapons. My driver’s license, purse and keys were all taken from me. Even my sunglasses. I was scanned with a metal detector and had to be buzzed in through every door. Some of the kids watched from the gym windows (across from the mural wall) and seemed to enjoy watching the painting process. Some spoke politely as they went by, saying things like “nice work Miss.” Others just kept their gaze down.

No child was brought to me to work on the mural. I am not sure why.

When the mural was complete, the message was expressed through the symbolism of choosing a dark side, which was bleak. A lone figure stood with his head down, a bird in a bare tree stood alone in the black branches. A moon and stars shone in the sky. In the center of the mural is a tree which separates the dark from the light. The light side of the tree had color and leaves and swirls and patterns in the trunk. The light side also had lots of nature, a sun, and a lone figure looking up and walking forward. A quote reads across the mural: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” The quote is from Martin Luther King Jr.

 Blocking in the background.

 Beginning the tree and lots of branches. Blending two background colors together.

 Adding the second half of the tree, with color rather than black.

 Adding the roots, touching up colors in tree and trunk.

 Adding moon, figure, bird in tree (may have to zoom) and the first part of the quote.

 Side view

 Detail of "light" side and dark side below. Quote reads" Darkness cannot drive out darkness" Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out Hate, only love can do that."
Martin Luther King Jr.

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