Inspiration can strike at any moment and for Gregory Armstrong, president and CEO of the WEDGE Group, his eureka moment happened when he came upon The Divine Feminine, a massive mural of a geometric nude by international artist C. Finley.
"He was visiting his son at USC and he happened upon my mural. He said, 'Hey do you want to do this in Houston?' He had a similar sized wall here which was always meant to be something else; he knew he wanted something to activate the space," says Finley.
A few emails back and forth and it was time to "get the party started."
At 100 feet by 150 feet the mural in Los Angeles had been Finley's largest commission. Now Sky Dance, which Finley began painting at 1415 Louisiana on March 21, will be her largest work at 130 feet by 230 feet. She anticipates using more than 80 gallons of paint, though it will probably be more like 100 gallons. Expected to be completed by mid-April, it will also become Houston's largest mural.
Sky Dance features three leaping figures and is inspired by actual dancers of the Houston Ballet: soloist Mónica Gómez, first soloist Nozomi Iijima and first soloist Allison Miller. Finley created a composite of three photographs and then added energy to the design with wind-blown hair and geometric colors against a sky blue background, while also invoking a sense of power and joy.
"It’s that joie de vivre. All that positive energy. It's really a hit of life," says Finley. "When I see a dance performance I just feel so good. You get this beautiful moment. These people that are dancing are in the prime of health, physical prowess, expressing themselves in such a beautiful way. You have to either go or you miss it. It's not like a painting; it's so physical. You can hear their breath, you can see them sweating."
Finley, who is working with local project management company Green Team to paint the mural and ensure safety, says she enjoys seeing passersby smile at the work or stop to take a photograph. "It’s the energy. You get [the dancers] flying through the sky."
The mural is being completed in partnership with the Houston Downtown Management District and its Art Blocks initiative, a temporary public art initiative that enlivens the blocks between the 900 and 1100 blocks of Main Street.
Finley says she works at the intersection of women, art and the environment. "I love being a woman and I love supporting other women in the arts and to be able to put three actual ballerinas on the wall is such a cool concept. As for the environment, I believe beautifying the space downtown will give people energy and positivity and put some joy, pep in their step, joy in their heart. Art is very powerful," says Finley.
She labels her work "environmental activism," finding ways to enhance the spaces in which we live. "It’s very boxy down there, there are a lot of grids, a lot of gray and putty colors. So it's nice to put this really vibrant piece in the middle of it all," says Finley, who never stops thinking of ways to add beauty to urban environments.
For more than ten years she's been painstakingly wallpapering dumpsters — preferring patterns and lavish Victorian prints over stripes — and now sees dumpsters in need of a makeover wherever she goes. "I'm always thinking, 'That could use some wallpaper, that could some color.' I'm always redesigning dumpsters in my mind."
Weather permitting, the mural should be completed by April 9, or by April 15 if the weather doesn't cooperate. They're using high-quality paint from Sherwin-Williams and, coupled with the fact that the building doesn't get sun after 1 p.m., Sky Dance should continue to delight for the next 15 years.
View Finley's Sky Dance, part of the Art Blocks at Main Street Square, Downtown District, 1415 Louisiana, 713-650-3022, artblockshouston.org, free.
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