I am going to blog about this summer’s Nirvana Mural project. It will take several posts and several more weeks of decompressing from this wonderful experience to fully untangle and share the many discoveries made during this project. I also want to fully celebrate Erik Sandgren and his team and this wonderful work. The postings will culminate with the official dedication in September.
A little background first: My father worked at Grays Harbor College in Aberdeen. We continued to live in Tacoma (okay now it’s officially Lakewood but we claimed Tacoma) and he would either come home every weekend or we would visit him.
During one visit while I was in high school he arranged for me to sit in on one of Erik Sandgren’s drawing classes at the college. It so happened that that day was clothed human life drawing. As my memory serves me, Sandgren was pleased with my efforts and suggested to Dad that I should consider going to GHC and work as his work-study student.
I took him up on that offer and had a tremendous experience at Grays Harbor. I continue to consider Sandgren and his wife Kathryn as mentors and to this day we keep in touch. We often share art opportunities and critiques of contemporary art education.
Earlier this year Sandgren reached out to me to see if I would work with him and three other harbor-connected artists on the execution of his Aberdeen and Nirvana Mural.
I would do anything for Sandgren—and this project has many personal connections beyond rejoining forces with him. I will detail those later.
Sylvia Dickerson of Our Aberdeen asked Sandgren if he would prefer to paint a mural about Aberdeen or the band Nirvana. His response was “both”. Sandgren’s art is absolutely intertwined with the light, history and atmosphere of the Harbor and his penchant for historical connection and context made the further investigation of Aberdeen’s lost son of rock and roll a natural fit.
In addition to Sandgren, three of us were alumni of GHC: Anthony James Cotham, Dominic Senibaldi (of PRINT OR DIE) and myself. The fourth artist, David Wall, had worked on another of Sandgren’s mural projects at the Port of Grays Harbor.
A press release discussing the Mural’s beginning from the Daily World and News Tribune can be read here.
Sandgren encouraged all of us to contribute ideas, sketches and critiques. He, Dominic and Anthony, created many of the early sketches. In several conversations over email and the phone I was able to contribute some concepts and ideas that shaped the evolution of the project and which are evident in the final product.
The scope of the project was fairly large and while Sandgren and the team delved deeply into the biographies and discographies of Kurt Cobain, Krist Noveselic and Nirvana, David and I also researched materials. Sandgren selected commercial aluminum sign substrate and One Shot sign paints (another historical connection that I will elaborate on in the future). Spray paint/graffiti was a desired element and we needed to investigate which sprays and enamels would work well with One Shots.
THE MURAL BEGINS:
Sandgren’s teaching schedule ended earlier than mine. After I over-night-shipped some grease-free Stabillo pencils to the rest of the team, they hand transferred all of the sketches and iterations onto the enormous mural. In doing so—they quickly realized they needed more room to do right by the imagery and as artists are wont to do—added more work for themselves by extending both sides of the mural by several panels.
I joined the team the week before my quarter at Lake Washington Institute of Technology ended. Below are photos of the process. All photos are by Erik Sandgren, Kathryn Cotnoir, David Wall and myself. The project will reveal itself more in upcoming posts–all leading to the September dedication.