Wrapped up the JagLeo Mural located on Cicero in the 6 Corners Shopping District in Chicago.
Some folks have asked why this mural is named as it is. At a root level the name of the piece is a combine of jaguar and leopard.
I was talking animals with my son, and as we went back and forth on characteristics and traits about different breeds and species, he literally stumped me when he asked me the difference between leopards and
jaguars. As such, I had to read up and get up to speed on these magnificent creatures. While doing so it dawned on me that perhaps a blending of both cats in an artistic manner would be a good subject for a painting. I did some drawing studies in my Florida studio over the winter and then set to task on a painting. The end result was a blending of a Jaguar and Leopard, and thus, the JagLeo.
When the concept went large scale for this public art project, I enhanced the big cat a bit more to include the color schemes of a tiger and lion and mixed in some patterning found on cheetahs, ocelots and panthers. Why the mix? In the wild, these creatures inhabit totally different continents, and as such their environments influence how they interact with all that is around them and literally through generations shape them into the majestic animals that they are.
To observe these beasts in their natural habitat, one is left with only use of adjectives that are on the grand scale of our vocabulary. Words such as glorious, impressive, splendid, striking, superb and breathtaking come to mind. When these animals are collected and put in one place they carry their naturalistic tendencies and traits across the miles. We as humans go to a central viewing location (such as a zoo or sanctuary) and marvel at their uniqueness and individuality, but at no point do we expect the leopard to alter his spots or the tiger to change their stripes.
The United States is often called the melting pot of the world, but lately there has been some pounding of a drum that carries the chant of not letting outsiders in or drones the alternate tune “they” have to mix with
us. I find these repetitive drum beats disturbing and distressful. This is why the JagLeo is an aggressive pose ready to pounce. It is surrounded by bars filled with symbols that seem foreign and can overwhelm if taken in at one big chunk. Yet, if you step back, you see each bar is a column filled with a vibrant color and the symbols, while different, actually share elements and seem to make a harmonic pattern. Individually defined, yet all rooted in the same foundation equally reaching to the sky. The JagLeo is in a safe area surrounded by a tranquil sea of blue allowed to express itself freely.
I encourage you to look at other cultures as you would the big cats or any other species you find fascinating. I urge you to observe the language and writings of traditions outside your own as you would the patterns and colors in the columns in this piece and dig deep to understand what shaped them into something special. Celebrate and embrace what makes the people of our world unique and if there is something to which you have an affinity, then by all means, blend it into your own being and makeup.
I would like to thank property owner Steve Vrettos for not only allowing me to put up a new piece of art on his building but for generously paying to have the artwork sealed so it is protected from the elements.
I would also like to thank Jessica Vazquez and Kelli Wefenstette of the 6 Corners Association for working to secure me a location. A special nod to Alderman John Arena and his staff as well for continuing to support public art in Chicago’s 45th Ward. Gratitude to the Public Art Trust for facilitating and funding this project with special acknowledgement to Noor Boyle, Sara Hackney and Joel Wasserman of Valspar Paints for providing paint for this project via a generous donation.
Finally a very heartfelt thank you to fellow artist Jerry Z. Rogowski, while the design and concept may be mine, Jerry matched me in just about every brushstroke in the execution and I am extremely grateful for his time and talent.
Finally I am dedicating this mural to Nicole Vitaioli. “Nickels” as I call her, has been a solid friend of mine through the years. She has always been very supportive of any venture I partake in but not so blindly that she would not call me out or let me know when I was in error. She has always been true, sincere and honest with me in all dealings, so much so she taught me that the sharpest knife is blunt. Some time back Nicole was dealt a bad hand health wise, while many people may have caved or simply gave in she stood firm. Never once did I hear her say why me or exhibit any negativity toward her situation quite the contrary she faced it with her usual calm all the while squaring up to her tribulation with grace and perhaps just important humor. I’m glad you are still with us Nicole as you make the world a better place.