Landmarks, UT's public art program, is set to unveil a monumental new work by painter José Parla. The mural, titled Amistad America, is the largest of his career, measuring 25 x 160 feet, or some 4000 square feet.
"I had worked on several large-scale murals before, so I didn't have a fear of how to approach it," Parla says, "I know how to do it somehow -- there's something natural that happens in how I approach it. But this was even larger than anything else I had done before."
A work this large is not created quickly; Parla has been working with Landmarks for the past four years to create Amistad America. He first created a scale model, and even that was a large endeavor.
"I made this model in my studio, which is not so small either -- it's six feet by twenty-four feet," he says. "So I... transformed myself into a very small person in my imagination and worked the mural from that perspective."
After that, Parla began work on the full-size mural, painted onsite at UT's new Robert B. Rowling Hall. He was painting while the building was still under construction, using a scissor lift and safety harnesses to get himself high enough to do the work.
"I go around in that scissor lift and I'm able to drive it back about twenty-five feet (at whatever height I want) to look at it," he says. "So I can be really close up for a very long time and then I go back to see what I need to do."
Andrée Bober, the director of Landmarks, has been following Parla's progress for a few years now, but still wasn't sure what his finished product would look like until she saw it in person. "Once you begin to see... this last stretch, the elements come together and they cohere in a way that captures the, I think, the best part of his painting, and the type of work that I was hoping he could bring to UT," she says. "Because it's a special type of way of seeing and special way of making, and that it's here on our university campus gives everybody the opportunity to experience it."
Landmarks will host a reception for Amistad America at Robert B. Rowling Hall on January 26, including a Q&A with José Parla and curator Carlo McCormick at 5:30 and a celebratory reception at 6:30. The event is free and open to the public.