Some thoughts on the Toro Totem Mural located on Kedzie at the intersection of Belmont in the Avondale Community of Chicago.
When approached by the Avondale Neighborhood Association to come up with concept artwork to be put on the facing Kedzie walls, the only request was that I think of a way to relate my output to reflect that of the community. Since I grew up in the Avondale area, I know first hand that it is a unique area of Chicago and the community has a way of etching itself into the folks that make it up.
While drawing and thinking of concepts, I started writing down a series of words in an attempt to get to the one word that was the essence of a full description of Avondale. Going back to my notes I had a long list that included the following: Strength, Grit, Perseverance, Ambition, Resilience, Hardiness, Motivating, Persistence, Tenacity, Diligence, Dedication, Commitment, Fortitude, Dignity, Honor, Passion, Vitality, Grace, Poise, Elegance, Finesse, Flexibility, Decency, Agility, Tact, Respect and Flexibility.
I had many more defining words and was able to cross out quite a few. But try as I might, I just could not eliminate any of the above words in my search for the all-encompassing word to define Avondale and what it taught me over time in the years I resided there in my youth. So I elected to represent each word in 27 unique totems shared on this mural and its sister mural across the street.
The symbol of the Bull has longed stood for magnanimity. Magnanimity is the virtue of being great of mind and heart across four concentrations 1) a refusal to be petty, 2) a willingness to face danger, 3) disdain for injustice and 4) effort to take purposeful actions for noble purposes. Thus the four bulls found in the mural that I feel also represent the Magnanimity found in the DNA of Avondale.
I would like to thank property owner Metra for allowing me to put up a new piece of art on this viaduct underpass. I would also like to thank Emily Taylor and the rest of the Avondale Neighborhood Association for working to secure me a location. Emily worked tirelessly through approvals to make this project happen and can not be applauded enough for her effort. A special nod to Alderman Deb Mel for approving my artwork in Chicago’s 33rd Ward.
Deep gratitude to the Public Art Trust and Shannon Kemp Passero for facilitating and funding this project with special acknowledgement to Valspar Paints for providing paint for this project via a generous donation. Mega-appreciation to Daniel Pogorzelski for coming by to help out and keep me company in the late hours of the project. Thanks to Karolina Zaczek for lending a hand with background splatter painting one day. Finally a very heartfelt thank you to fellow artist Jerry Z. Rogowski. While the design and concept may be mine, Jerry is always ready and willing to aide me in the execution, and I am extremely grateful for his time and talent.
I am dedicating this mural to John DeLeo. A lot of the words represented in the totems of this and the neighboring mural can easily be used to describe John. I, and for that matter anyone that knows John, can think of thousands more all of the positive form, to further the description. I know many men and if all had half the measure of character and nobility of John the world would be a far better place. He has a purity of soul that is almost unequaled and just about unfathomable. Regardless the role and be it that of father, husband, son, sibling, friend in all cases he is quite simply the model.
A grail is defined as something searched and sought after for its great significance. Decades ago on the day I met John the grail search for friendship was complete. It is said that your heart has a magnet that will attract true friends, I’m glad my magnet matches John’s. Even when we walk in opposite directions, we remain side by side.