So we're vacationing in Arizona for a week or so, and visiting the big spots: Wickenberg, Gilbert (not so big really but where my sister and her husband Tim live), Prescott (no, no … that's pronounced Preskit), then up to Flagstaff for a peek at the Grand Canyon (just to see if I'm still afraid of heights … yup ... that never changes!) Flagstaff is still a far-out hippie hang-out; see, even if you didn't see any hippies there you could tell that they inhabited Flagstaff at least at one point because of all the prominent public art. It's all over the place there. What's that? Well, we're not really sure exactly what is included in the category, but you can check it out here. Anyway, I'm walking toward Leroux Street and there's this mural on the wall behind a Diablo Burger that catches my attention. So I stroll up to take a closer look. Mural.
I'm kind of into checking it out in detail … deeply sucked in actually, looking pretty carefully at what's going on in the mural -- and just then a guy walks out of Diablo Burger and I ask him if he knows who did this mural? He said, "Sure. He's a friend of mine: Joe Sorren. [If you're interested in seeing more of his work you can check it out here]. I've got some information on the mural -- do you want it?" "Yes I do." According to Squidoo.com, one of Joe's best-known public art pieces is the 40-foot by 30-foot mural [actually, according to Joe, is 45'x'15'] at Heritage Square in Flagstaff, which was started in the spring of 1999 and completed in September 2000, after nine months of work. Painted on the curved wall of a parking garage, the mural serves as a backdrop for [what is now the Diablo Burger] Restaurant.
The mural wasn't pre-planned, it kind of came into existence as the work was being done, sort of as a 'puzzle' coming together. Joe described it as "Let's see what the wall wants to be today." The title was supposed to "somehow tie together the giant outdoor park scene and its figures." There were a few lame attempts to entitle it, like Ten Thousand Hoses from the City of Big-Headed People; and The Ants Don't Call Home Anymore; and still a favorite of Joe's that didn't win, Please, Just Some Gravy. Enter a friend Matt Hall who along with Joe brainstormed the title in about an hour. The next cross street in Flagstaff was Leroux Street, so that worked as a starting place.
When the assistant editor for the Flagstaff paper wanted to do a story on the mural -- Matt wrote up some notes about it -- "a completely fictitious name/person Effie Leroux … an early 20th century philanthropist who created veridic [verity = truth] gardens, peaceful places for 'people to experience with all five senses the possibility of a fuller life." Joe then wrote up the details as if they were all fact. The big fictitious story about the mural got published in a booklet called The Veridic Gardens of Effie Leroux (of all things). What's really cool about the story line is that it fills in the details of Effie's fictitious life by detailing the various segments of the mural.
For instance -- this scene from the mural is interesting.
This child is riding some kind of Salvador Dali inner tube contraption; note the wings on his back, and the giant hands holding the 'reins' of his plastic horse, tiny feet and a small halo over his head. The entry in the book says of this section of the mural:
"Deidre brought her baby today. He's getting so big. He looks like his father, serious and sweet under a tangle of dark hair. I wheeled myself outside and watched as Deidre played with him in the water, making up a song as she did. "We live a garden life," she piped. "That's right, that's right, that's right." And the boy, my great-grandson, splashed, and I breathe in deep."
It seems so clear to me now how one does not find truth or peace or god. One lives these things.
[Effie Leroux. Diary entry: "July 21, 1950 (Oahu, Hawaii)": The Collected Diaries of Effie Leroux, Volume 16.
Joe also does creepy stuff like these pictures below. He's awesome. You can read a more personalized article on Joe and his work in the AZ Daily Sun here. If you find you'd like to explore more of his stuff, here's another sampling of the kind of art he does.