Chalkfest Voting is Open! View the artwork & vote now — Aug. 1

Visual Art

New Birch Street Mural Takes Shape

“Contemplations of Pollaiuolo’s ‘A Woman in Green and Crimson’ ” explores nature, ecology, and the beauty of pausing to take in the world around us

words & photos by Rebecca Mennecke |

CONTEMPLATIONS OF POLLAIUOLO'S WOMAN IN GREEN AND CRIMSON. Inspired by a 15th century artist's work, local artist Lori Chilefone created a new mural on the back of Next Step Energy, conveying the theme of simplicity and taking a moment to take in the world around you.
CONTEMPLATIONS OF POLLAIUOLO'S WOMAN IN GREEN AND CRIMSON. Inspired by a 15th century artist's work, local artist Lori Chilefone created a new mural on the back of Next Step Energy, hoping to convey a theme of simplicity and pausing to take in the world around you.

“This piece is filled with gratitude for the spinning and ever-changing universe,” writes artist Lori Chilefone in her artist statement for a new mural on the back of Next Step Energy on Birch Street in Eau Claire, “and a tribute to nourishing traditions that have been passed down through the ages.” 

The mural is based on a collage piece Chilefone created for the 2019 Pablo Center exhibit “Eco Art and the Global Canvas” – the first-ever eco art exhibit at Pablo. The piece draws inspiration from the 15th century artist Antonio del Pollaiuolo’s painting “A Woman in Green and Crimson,” which was created in the 1490s and currently housed at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts.

Artist
Artist Antonio del Pollaiuolo’s painting “A Woman in Green and Crimson" – which was created in the 1490s and currently housed at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts – serves as the inspiration for the new Birch Street mural.

“It’s an honor to stand on the shoulders of Pollaiuolo for a moment, in a moment,” Chilefone wrote, “imagining ‘A Woman in Green and Crimson’ enjoying tea in her favorite cup.” The woman, though unidentified, intrigued Chilefone. 

Local artist and recent UWEC grad Caleb Carr also pitched in to help on the mural.
Local artist and recent UWEC grad Caleb Carr also pitched in to help on the mural.

“Often times when I do a collage, I build it around a face,” Chilefone said as she observed the mural in progress. “And, based on the gaze of the face, (I) think about what that subject is thinking about. It’s built around the gaze. So what is she doing?” She added, “What is she thinking?” 

Artist Lori Chilefone works on the lower parts of the mural.
Artist Lori Chilefone works on the parts of the mural closest to the ground on the cool Friday morning of July 9. 

Chilefone coated the back wall of Next Step Energy with stucco in 2019, with the intent to paint the mural in 2020, but quickly changed gears to focus on new priorities as a result of the pandemic.

Now, she works with local art teacher Jenna Ruder, recent UW-Eau Claire graduate Caleb Carr, along with the help of a number of volunteers, to pull off the intricate mural, which also pulls inspiration from other local artists – such as the cup the woman is holding, which is inspired by local potter David Caradori.

Artist Lori Chilefone shared her collage work from the Pablo Center's 2019 exhibit
Artist Lori Chilefone shared her collage work from the Pablo Center's 2019 exhibit "Eco Art and the Global Canvas," which she adapted for the mural.

“I thought it was a beautiful thing to place here when there’s been Monarch (butterfly) activity,” Chilefone said as she pointed out the corner of the building, where a cluster of milkweed plants grow, “which is really cool.”

Chilefone estimates the mural will reach completion in the next two weeks, assuming the weather cooperates.

Memorial High School art teacher Jenna Ruder decided to spend some of her summer vacation time helping Chilefone paint this new mural.
Memorial High School art teacher Jenna Ruder decided to spend some of her summer vacation time helping Chilefone paint this new mural.

Learn more about Chilefone’s work at her website lorichilefone.com

The mural has garnered local attention. While painting, a curious spectator stopped to ask about the mural.
The mural has garnered local attention. While painting, a curious spectator stopped to ask about the mural.