Here it is! The finished mural design.
This design is to-scale has simplified colors for an easy, 3-day installation -- as a giant paint by number.
The flow of the mural is shown here from South to North, since South is the traditional entry to the neighborhood from the rest of the city.
For orientation "SOUTH" is written where the back gate of Atria Covell Gardens is located, and the first bindweed blossom surrounds a bench there.
ELEMENTAL celebrates the power of nature: Air, Earth, Water, and Fire, along with the power of the spirit, culture, and the unseen. Classical elements are explored with portraits of the plants and animals you can find along the greenbelt -- as well as powerful symbols from the many cultures of neighbors who meet up along our shared pathways.
Scroll down to see CLOSE-UPS of the mural image as well as a description of WHAT went into the design -- aka the ideas behind the pictures.
Starting* just past Chautauqua Apartments, near Atria Covell Gardens South Gate....
Entering the mural, Field Bindweed (aka Morning Glory) breaks up the concrete, showing the power of nature to overcome and outlast what people build. Field Bindweed also acts as an allusion to European ancestors, whose culture (like those beautiful flowers) has proven invasive, claiming the landscape around us and overrunning what came before. The heart/spear-shaped leaves remind us of the importance and challenge of loving our neighbors.
The first element, AIR blows in with Japanese woodcut-inspired Wind, carrying Dandelion seeds (another European immigrant) toward the EARTH, certain to place deep roots in the heavy clay surrounding.
The wind blows other creatures and cultures forward. A Bald Eagle feather (sacred to Native Americans and symbol of the USA) flies in on the wind. The Butterfly, part Tiger Swallowtail and part Monarch, reminds of migrating animals and people, who travel from South to North and back again in annual migrations.
From AIR, Bindweed breaks across the concrete again, introducing our next element: EARTH. Yellow taproots grow down from the bindweed. This amazing plant can send roots 9 feet down, its power and endurance stored from places unseen.
Staring at that root in the EARTH is the Sankofa bird. This Adinkra bird symbol traveled here with West African people who were brought to the Americas as slaves. Sankofa means "Go back and Fetch it". The bird looks backwards for an egg it has dropped, while its feet face forwards. Its posture reminds us to return to the past to retrieve what we have lost. In order to move towards the future, we must connect back across years and generations -- a good reminder in this space shared by college students, seniors, and families.
A goofy Turkey and Dog show up next, squabbling along the greenbelt path, where wild meets domestic. The Turkey's style is inspired in part both children's whimsical "handprint turkeys" and by artist Anne Syer, who lives at the nearby Atria senior living facility, and paints fantastic birds with wild feathers. (Anne's artwork also inspired the sunflower that can be found in the FIRE section.)
Dogs are the only animal that was domesticated in pre-Colombian Americas, with new breeds brought over with Europeans. Dogs of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds and heritages peruse our neighborhood -- echoing the diversity of peoples who live here.
NOTE: Both the Dog and Sankofa appear "upside-down" in these drawings, but since people walk both ways along the path, there is no upside-down. The mural is designed to be enjoyed differently from each angle.
Protected by another root, the Red-Shafted Flicker bird gathers a nutritious Acorn from the EARTH. Red-Shafted Flickers are sacred to California's Native American community, honored in a traditional men's dance, and much loved by birders in our neighborhood for their bright red underwing. The Flicker opens its wings onto the concrete, returning us to the VOID. The VOID, also known as the SPIRIT, connects us to the unknown and world beyond the physical.
Field Bindweed returns to usher in calm, soothing WATER with the East Asian Koi fish, associated with harmony, happiness, and good fortune. WATER is also home to the Turtle, featured in legends from around the world, for his wisdom and navigation skills. The Lotus blossom, an Asian symbol of purity, grows improbably from the Bindweed vine. On the other side of the Lotus, FIRE erupts with warm colors, paisley patterns of South Asia, red leaves of the nearby Pistache trees, and heat-loving Sunflower and Lizard.
Speaking of the Lizard -- kids in our neighborhood love to catch those wild and wiggly FIRE-y creatures: the Lizard in summer and Crayfish in winter. So it is the Crayfish that returns us to the WATER with a river, and a majestic Egret that carries that river forward in to the VOID.
Here the mural pauses for about 100 feet as the pathway rounds a curve, only to return in an explosion of color at Hacienda Avenue.
Now we enter the dragon!
WhileddIn the cul-de-sac, Elements and Cultures mix and mingle.
The River re-emerges to become a winding spiral WATER Dragon. At the mouth of Hacienda Avenue, another Adinkra symbol, the Crocodile appears. More Turtle-shaped to our western eyes, the Crocodile symbolizes adaptability, through his ability to live in both water and earth.
The WATER Dragon is a fusion of a traditional Chinese dragon and a more playful, Pokemon-inspired Dragotini Dragon-Serpent. Pokemon is super popular in our neighborhood, and players often gather on this cul-de-sac and head towards the greenbelt lawn. Our Dragon's back will be patterned with scales made with more Adinkra symbols from West Africa, most likely the gorgeous "Snake Climbing the Raffia Tree" pattern symbolizing persistence.
Our WATER Dragon breathes out FIRE and light. In the mixture of FIRE and WATER, the renewing Rainbow is born -- in a series of colorful Koi fish.
Surrounding the spiral labyrinth is EARTH scattered with Elderberry leaves, blossoms, and berries. Elderberry is native to our area and grows along the nearby North Davis ditch. Blue Elderberry is valued by Native Americans for its medicinal properties, as well as the strong stalks used to make Clapper Sticks for women's dancing. Elderberry is also treasured by Europeans -- the berries are used to make jams, cordials, and wine, while the flowers make a delicious syrup. EARTH -- and plant life within it -- is something all cultures value and benefit from.
Birds and butterflies fly in on AIR currents from the North, including Red Tail Hawks, Hummingbirds, and migrating Monarchs. While the drawing here shows only Hawks, we are still working on a final addition of Hummingbirds, who will feature in the final installation. Hummingbirds are a source of constant delight, with their antics and colorful feathers, found throughout the Americas, from Alaska to Chile. They symbolize friendship and playfulness. The whimsical birds pictured here are inspired by the drawings of Steven Garrett, who lives in nearby Atria.
NOTE: Where is the labyrinth? For traditional labyrinth walkers, the labyrinth is not just a spiral, but a winding path that goes from outside to center and back again, through a circuitous route that encourages a walking meditation. Our labyrinth is a bit more free-form and open to interpretation. Walkers can follow the dark blue dragon outline in and out, or walk in along the rainbow, and out the dragon. You are invited to create your own labyrinth as you explore the finished art -- as we each do, with the choices we make in our lives.
* The mural design will eventually begin outside Bianco Court and Chatuaqua Apartments with a colorful crossroads symbol -- but we are waiting for some feedback from the Yocha Dehe Wintun tribe before finalizing that.
We need over 200 volunteers to bring this mural to life -- over the weekend of October 12-14. No skill needed.
Sign up at: www.tinyurl.com/elementalsignup