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Taking Art to the People


       Our new mural, titled Leger, is based on a piece by Fernand Léger, which you see at right (click on image for a zoom of it). The mural's dimensions are 98" by 130". The medium is acrylic on newspaper and cereal boxes. We completed it in September, 2004.

News articles referencing this work can be found here and here.
(click to zoom)
by Fernand Léger

       Fernand Léger, (1881-1955) French painter, who influenced cubism, constructivism, and the modern commercial poster and other types of applied art. Along with his compatriot Georges Braque and the Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, Léger played an important role in the development and spread of cubism.
       Léger's subsequent work was influenced by his experiences in World War I (1914-1918). He began to use many symbols from the industrial world and attempted to depict his objects and people in machinelike forms.

Mural: "Leger" by Trevor Burrowes and Pete Hubbard
'Leger' by Trevor Burrowes and Pete Hubbard
(click picture for normal zoom; for super zoom, click here)

This shot helps establish the size of the mural and placement near the Fetterly Gallery (the gallery's entrance is the awning seen down on the right side of the building the mural is on).

Detail Blow-ups — Click on Image for Zooms

Leger One Year Later
The shots below show how this mural weathered time over a year. Leger is the only mural of Pete and Trevor's that lasted a full year, and the impermanance and decay of their art over time is a key componant of their art. This mural was taken down at this time to make way for their latest effort, Town and Country. Click on each shot for zoom version, click on zoom version for super-zoom version.
Click for Zooms
Click for Zooms Click for Zooms
by Trevor Burrowes
I feel about the weathering aspect of the “Leger” mural somewhat as I did about my series of drawings with ballpoint pen over my used desk calendars which served me in the nonprofit, sustainable development work I was then doing. The subject matter of the drawings was split between scenes of urban agriculture that I had fostered into being, and interpretations of Vermeer. I was recycling culture, I was recycling paper, I was reinforcing the conservation ethic of my organization, I was commenting on the process of my work over time. And all of these commentaries converged. I felt I had somehow graduated into the world of modernism, grown up as an artist. The works were not merely about creating precious collector items. Rather, they formed a kind of glue to bind the community into a united force for change. It was more about respect for connection and relationship than ownership and assets.

The weathering of the “Leger” furthers that direction. This large work was put into a public environment under the informal auspices of an arts organization. It was exposed to everything and everyone, and so, was very much in contact with the real world. The harsh sun beat down on it, as did the pelting rain from one of the wettest winters in recent years. It contracted and expanded. Rips appeared. Mostly, it faded. I periodically made very minor repairs in the attempt to prolong the life of the piece in the Fetterly location. This enabled it to last long enough to show the effect of the sun, rain and oxidation on newspaper and cardboard. But, like a person who ages well, the mural never lost its basic “form,” or its ability to attract and please. Finally, having endured much, fragile beyond belief, it was taken down after more than a year in situ.

This mural earned a place, simultaneously, within three art genres: 1) conventional art, 2) ephemeral art, and 3) extended ephemeral art. The conventional-mural aspect was served by a dynamic, well executed image that brought positive attention to its setting. Ephemerality was due to fragile materials, exposure to destructive conditions, and the acknowledgement of the degenerative processes witnessed over time. Stabilizing art-consolidation concepts maintained the weathering, but kept the work from falling apart. This extended-ephemeral-art aspect of the piece allowed the work to function, dually, as a conventional mural and as ephemera at the same time. Preventing a noticeably tattered appearance (which could have brought public opprobrium on the piece and forced its early removal) bought time for maximizing the gradual fading effects wrought by the elements. Extended ephemerality also confers future ability to display the mural, even if in a manner that highlights its deterioration, and allows time for the broad public to assimilate a challenging mural concept.

Integrating scientific methodology, Pete photographed the mural at various stages as a means of observing and recording the process of degeneration. Scientific factors potentially offered research material to science students: oxidation, moisture, contraction and expansion could have been observed and measured. I find it exciting that the work calls attention to the effect of sunlight. The measurable effects of sunlight on different materials were very apparent. The sun painted, layering an opaque white over much of the packaging imagery. And sculpted, accentuating the sculptural effects of warping. It makes us think about the sun. Disrespected, it causes withering and lays to waste. Properly harnessed, it can provide all the plant life and energy that we need. The rips, fissures and fading in the “Leger” are simply what they are. We pass no judgment on them.

This dimension of time in the mural makes it a work to be taken seriously within the museum establishment. Art changes, like life. The weathering effect is meant to show change, making visual art a little more like music, dance and other ephemeral arts.

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