Slowly emerging out of a once stark gray concrete wall is a striking image of the valley fruit industry. It appeared overnight in a soft, sky blue sketch, barely visible to the passer by.
Muralist Allison Fox and artist Michelle Yamamoto worked through two long nights projecting the image onto the wall, a sketch so subtle one might think it was a mere figment of their imagination. Last week, more definitive lines were drawn and the twisted trunk of an aging apple tree emerged, adding movement to the painting.
A surprisingly blue sky popped out of the clouds one morning across the mural’s top edge. It took me by surprise, coming a little ahead of schedule, but painted on the days when the high scissor lift was available, allowing the artists to reach the mural’s highest point.
Over the past week, layers of soft golds, rusts and greens appeared as a panorama of the east valley hills emerged in the distance. In an almost ghostly fashion, the artist’s vision begins to appear, bringing the past forward for those in the present and future to enjoy.
A locomotive anchors the murals left side, instrumental in the development of the valley’s fruit industry, moving tons of fruit across the west and on to the east coast to market. In juxtaposition to the early locomotive, one can see the boxes being hauled from the orchard on a horse drawn wagon, the primary mode of transportation in the early 1900s. This was a time when the terms “man power” and “horse power” were literal.
I am amazed at how rapidly the transformation is taking place, each day bringing new details into focus. Perhaps for the younger generation used to computerized images, constant streaming of videos, movies and television shows, the pace is too slow. The pace of the mural’s creation allows many to become a part of the project, share in its formation and enjoy its beauty.
The mural is constantly changing under the watchful eye of the artists. New details are added, staying true to the history of the time being depicted. One can enjoy a Where’s Waldo activity each day. This morning, I saw the faint outline of deer underneath the trees. Watch for them to appear over the next few weeks. See if you can find the homage paid to Native Americans who traded with the settlers, the Finnish and Japanese farmworkers and most recently the immigrants from Mexico. Watch as each of the cultures are enhanced, through use of a traditional color palette and artistic designs of the specific era.
A number of people have stopped by, taken pictures and provided the artists with support with the occasional thumbs up or horn beep. It is worth driving by to see the work in progress. Much like our community, we are all changing and, hopefully, moving in a positive direction. We are celebrating our history, the diversity of our people, and the amazing place in which we live, one paint stroke at a time.
There is still a need for resources to complete the project. We hope you will go to the Arts in Education of the Gorge website, gorgeartsined.org, and make a donation. Or mail a check to 1009 Eugene St., Hood River, OR 97031, towards the Odell mural.