Public Art You Can't See from a Car

I managed to forge a cycling purpose into a non-cycling vacation in August, 2011, using the brute force of a big-ass 1996 GMC camper van.

Here are the posts: Vapid Transit, Snap Judgements, How to Blow $20 in Boulder, Public Art You Can't See from a Car, and How does your town say "˜No Bicycles?'

Loveland, Colorado is kind of like the middle child. It doesn’t get as much attention as its siblings, Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins. Many people have never heard of it, or it gets confused with a ski area of the same name that’s about 100 miles away.

But Loveland is a very bike-friendly city, populated with more than it’s share of artists. The city has nearly 300 pieces of public art, and a few of them are only visible from the multi-use paths. This has got to be one of those unquantifiable quality-of-life aspects to bike commuting that you can’t explain to a motorist with words.

It was in Loveland that I made my only intentional bike ride during 10 days away from home. (The B-Cycle bike-share ride in Boulder doesn’t count.)

I’ve been to Loveland many times, and I always look forward to this ride along the Big Thompson River, in part because of the art on and under the bridges.

Under the First Street bridge, I stopped longer than usual and took a close look at “Patterns in Chaos” by artist Mario Echevarria.

"Patterns in Chaos" by Mario Echevarria
"Patterns in Chaos" by Mario Echevarria | Click to see a high resolution version

I remembered this mural as an idyllic scene with kids playing along a river. The kind of safe, trite, public art you could find anywhere. And that’s because I never stopped before to really look at it.

"Patterns in Chaos" by Mario Echevarria - detailActually, it’s kind of freaky — in the best possible way.

I’m no art critic, but I do share a birthday with Salvador Dali, so that qualifies me to point out some things.

Death and danger seem to be lurking everywhere in this mural. Look at these kids fishing. Are they sitting on a corpse? And is that girl holding a black adder?

Up in the clouds, there’s a fist about to punch the earth.

"Patterns in Chaos" by Mario Echevarria - detail
This is a car spewing exhaust.

"Patterns in Chaos" by Mario Echevarria - detail

And what the hell is this?

"Patterns in Chaos" by Mario Echevarria - detailAn owl sitting on a totem pole? I don’t think so. Look closer. I’m pretty sure that’s a dude by the name of Death next to a water source springing from, what, an ear?

I think of hundreds of cars passing over this bridge every day, the drivers not realizing the treasure buried just a few feet below their wheels.

Echevarra, the artist, finds inspiration in Lucky Charms cereal — which I think I’m going to have to give another try one day soon.

I love Lucky Charms cereal so much that my sister-in-law bought me a case for Christmas.

While eating my first bowl, I felt surges of pure joy knowing that I had a seemingly infinite number of future bowls more before the self-indulgence would come to an end.

These are the same sensations I hope to inspire in others with my art: pure joy and self-indulgence without end. From their first encounter to their last, I hope all who come in contact with my art experience a joy similar to the one I derive from those sweet, colored marshmallows.

But the eeriest part of this mural needs to be viewed in motion. There are about four places on this mural where the painting is on relief–carved into the wall. Here’s a video I made, complete with scary music (because, you know, I didn’t trust the viewer to be scared without the music).

Do you see anything in this mural I haven’t pointed out? I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere in there is the Lucky Charms leprechaun mascot.

Click here to download a high-resolution version of the image.

What public art gems are there where you live? And are they, like this one, hidden from view of motorists?


Creative Commons License “Spooky Ambience with Heartbeat” by blacklizard77 is licensed under a Creative Commons Sampling Plus 1.0 License.

Thanks to Robert May who provided me with some artsy feedback on the mural.

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