Young da Vincis’ Debut—Lee Belle Johnson Senior Center Murals Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
By Kathleen Sloan
The City of Truth or Consequences got several beautiful murals for the cost of materials and the group organized and named by Jia Apple as “the Young da Vincis” got trained in the art of mural making.
Apple and seven of the eight da Vincis presented the murals to the city on Saturday, August 18, at 5 p.m. at the site—the Lee Belle Johnson Senior Center, at 301 S. Foch St.
The da Vincis are, Reed Tische, Megan Burke, Bethany Walker, Jannelle Knaus, Josh Candelaria, Kyle Cunningham, Jeannie Ortiz and Hannah Goldman (who was moving the day of the dedication and was unable to attend).
Something less tangible than the murals and the transfer of craftsmanship was in evidence at the dedication—an esprit de corps among the artists for one thing, and a communal joy wafting through the crowd for another.
The project started in April. Four months and at least 2,160 work hours went into it—nine people working about 12 hours a week for 20 weeks. Local flora/fauna/habitat is the theme, which were researched. Overall design and consistency of design had to be hammered out and executed. The integrity of the historic building had to be preserved and the mural materials and attachment had to be researched and executed. Apple’s experience as a muralist saved hundreds more man-hours that would have had to be expended without her leadership.
Apple also modeled how to go after and get civic support for a project. She and some of the da Vincis gave two presentations to the city commission.
Apple’s itemized budget and estimated labor (not charged for) also gave the da Vincis and hopefully the community some idea how valuable artists and art are to a community.
Apple suggested Truth or Consequences MainStreet approve the design of the murals, which the city commission approved, opening up further community participation, transparency and oversight. There are several civics lessons to be learned and pondered in that move.
The disparate shapes of the boarded-up windows—used as an inset for the murals—must have made maintaining a design scheme throughout difficult.
Repeated design elements gave consistency and rhythm. The habitat was strongly delineated in curvy shapes and diagonals that pull you into the picture. Land, water, mountains and sky were depicted in a consistent palette of alternating oranges and blues.
The animal life was consistently depicted two ways—as strong black silhouettes, or set apart in a tondo/circle form, painted in “grisaille” or in shades of black and white with some tans.
This non-color/overlay/animal design contrasted with the high-color habitat shows great visual thinking. It works very well with the strong curvy lines of the historic adobe building—a WPA project.
Jia Apple and the Young da Vincis’ strong communal effort and involvement are a great continuation of the WPA tradition.