I'm back in San Francisco, decompressing after a three-week adventure in Austria. I was invited back to beautiful Anger, Austria for the KOMM.ST "Ten Days" art festival as an artist-in-residence. Some of you might remember that I did some Kepler inspired murals at the bus stop there in 2013. I didn't expect to be back so soon, but I was honored to be asked to return for a new mural at the bridge. And then they named the bridge after me! Here's how the final artwork turned out:
For the subject matter, I chose the village of Anger itself. Last year it was such a treat to work outside in the Austrian countryside and I'd take breaks to just stare at the idyllic village just up the hill. I wanted to capture that and create a sort of two-dimensional diorama. Two weeks before my trip, I was at Disneyland admiring the "It's a Small World" ride. I wanted to make something like that in Anger, if possible. It had to be something like an all-ages love letter to the village from me, the outsider. There was also news that the Mayor of Anger had cleared the paperwork to have the entire bridge named after me with an official "Ellingson Brücke" sign. With that in mind, I was sure that the mural should be something of a Thank You for such an honor. I set to work on ideas. After a few days of sketches, reworks, and more sketches, I had a solid direction. I made a rough color key based on the dimensions of the pillar and transferred the basic shapes onto a large roll of paper using a projector.
When I made it to the wall, there were a number of things to do before starting. I had to spackle the holes in the wall, prime it with paint, sand, and spackle some more. Then I transferred the design to the wall and tightened up the design. I'm glad that I got the prep work done right away because the weather took a turn for the worse. Apparently there is a storm that rolls in like clockwork every year around that time. Temperatures plummet and the wind and rain roll in.
Working outside has it's ups and downs. When the weather is bad, everything seems to be working against you. However, the community of Anger was incredibly generous. Lots of people brought me coffee, hot tea, beer, and snacks. The town butcher even lent me his horse trailer as a portable studio so that my stuff wouldn't blow away in the wind. Everyone was very supportive and went out of their way to encourage me, despite language barriers. My favorite part of the whole experience was hanging out with the people of Anger. They are really generous.
Most of the artwork in the Anger mural is inspired by architectural forms and landmarks around town. There's the man-made creek that flows through the village, the church, and the statue of Mary at the center of town. During my previous trip to Anger, I discovered a grave marker in the oldest part of the church. It had a unique skull and crossbones design with the bones broken on the ends. The image stuck with me and I appropriated it later as my personal logo. In my mural, I had an area that was supposed to represent the clock face on the church tower. I decided that the crossbones should go there, since that's where I found the inspiration and it was also a fitting representation of the passage of time.
Naming the Bridge
The weather eventually cleared up and just a couple of days before I finished, a utility worker arrived with the Ellingson Brücke sign. I couldn't believe it. They decided to mount it right above the new mural, too. I took a bunch of pictures of the guy affixing my name to the bridge. He must have thought I was nuts. For me, this was the culmination of an elaborate series of unlikely events ending with my name on a bridge in the middle of Europe. After completing the KEPLER/SOMNIUM murals in 2013, it had been brought up that the overpass was in need of a new name. They were thinking that "Kepler Brücke" would be a nice fit since my murals were all about his contributions to the region. I was elated with the idea. Artist curator Johannes Grenzfurthner countered that lots of things were named for Kepler in the area and perhaps maybe "Ellingson Brücke" might be better. I was at that meeting and I couldn't have slid lower in my chair. Of course it would be a huge honor to have a landmark of my own, but seriously? Well, they liked the idea and got things underway to make it happen. And then, one year later, it did. I'm still flabbergasted.