About "Come Together" and Me

Repair Project Turned Mural

The mural I created on our alley wall started as a repair project. Our 43 year old 6’ x 60’ alley facing wall was showing signs of fatigue on the lower courses of concrete block. A local contractor/ friend facilitated the necessary repairs. And then I realized I had a 60’ blank canvas.

My first thought was to seal the surface of each panel with five different pastel colors. Little did I know, with those first coats of paint, that I was embarking on 5 months and over 200 hours of joy and pleasure. The mural started taking shape in my consciousness.

I’m a lifelong distance runner. And I’m fortunate, in my early 70’s, to still be running 35 to 45 miles each week. So the idea of a running figure in each panel occurred to me next. As a non-artist, challenged to draw straight lines, I opted for stick figures in motion that could be scaled up with large stencils cut from Mylar sheets. The internet provided numerous stencil designer/manufacturers. In some cases I provided the artwork and ideas that would be scaled up to my specifications. And some of the elements in the mural were off the shelf stencils that fit my vision of what I wanted. I worked with 4 or 5 stencil companies who, for the most part, were a pleasure to work with.

Once the running stick figures were in place on all five panels I started thinking about what I wanted to express. I became intrigued with cephalopods 6 or 7 years ago after reading Peter Godfrey-Smith’s “Other Minds”. And, more recently, I’ve read “Being You” by Anil Seth and “The Feeling of Life Itself” by Christof Koch. These last two books describe the most current scientific research into consciousness, how it arises from organic neural systems, and how prevalent it may be in all organic systems. So the panel that I call “Cephalopod City” is simply a nod to organic consciousness.

``Cephalopod City`` and ``Girls In Space``
From right to left.

Next I envisioned the “Moonscape” panel. I’m a lifelong reader including lots of science fiction. And for the last 10 years or so I’ve been on a personal journey to understand our current scientific knowledge of the natural laws of physics. Some of the authors who have been “wowing” me include Carlo Rovelli, Sean Carroll, Brian Green, Don Lincoln, Emma Thompson, Gary Zukav, Marcus Du Sautoy, David Lindley, Suzanne Simard, Stephen Hawking, Roger Penrose, and others. So, for now, everything I can learn about our physical universe absolutely intrigues me! And a nod to humans in space surrounded by planets, stars, galaxies, and black holes led me to create “Moonscape”.

``Come Together``
The final mural completed

All the while, the panel featuring the “Tunnel of Love” was always complete in my mind. I faced a challenge – could I free-paint the tunnel and the road up to the tunnel. What you see is what I was capable of accomplishing. It’s a tribute to my niece Allison. She is the most determined person I’m privileged to know. And her determination is infused with mindfulness, kindness, grace, and poise. At age 12, Allison was determined to run a ½ marathon with me here in Tempe, AZ. So we did. She ran every step without any complaints and she completed her first ½ marathon. Currently, Allison is in West Virginia with her boyfriend, Bill, at the University of West Virginia, working toward her PhD in neuroscience. She inspires me to continue learning as much as I can about our physical universe.

``Tunnel of Love`` and ``Moonscape``
From left to right.

The panel “Girls in Space” was inspired by my wife Mary, who also happens to be the love of my life, (along with our cat Milton!). She has spent almost 3 decades laser focused on scientific research, learning, and teaching with her colleagues and students. Mary has spent her entire academic career at ASU where, along with her research and teaching, she currently serves as the associate-chair of the psychology department at the College for Liberal Arts and Sciences. Similar to Suzanne Simard who wrote “In Search of the Mother Tree”, Mary is an example for women everywhere who accomplish by “doing” with little or no complaint, often on an uneven playing field. And the panel afforded me another opportunity to add elements representing matter, energy, and consciousness that are all part of our physical universe.

Lastly, the middle panel titled “Come Together” is a nod to our humanity and to all things organic. And it’s a special nod to Suzanne Simard who helped to enlighten me about the pervasiveness of consciousness. The “Tree of Life” is taken from Peter Jackson’s interpretation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”. It was worn on the vests and chest plates of the humans of Gondor in Middle Earth. The panel means simply, to me, be mindful of our physical universe.

In closing, the three most significant influences on me for starting and completing my alley wall mural were Ludwig Boltzmann, Mike McBeath, and my own curiosity. First, Boltzmann’s quantitative theory on entropy, as described in the second law of thermal dynamics, provided me with an understanding of the one direction of entropy and the temporary existence of our physical universe. Everything is temporary, including my alley wall mural, and I embrace that. Second, Mike McBeath, a psychology professor and colleague of my wife, Mary, graciously 5 or 6 years ago shared with us his huge, backyard optical illusion depicting the earth and a part of the universe. His artwork led me to think that maybe I could do something larger in scope than I had ever done before. And lastly, a primary requirement of my consciousness is to stay curious!

The Muse & Me
Of course I couldn't go without including a picture of my wife and myself.
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