Portland artist brings agriculture to life at Lake Oswego Wilco
Hector Hernandez has a special relationship with volcanos.
He was surrounded by them growing up in Mexico City, and the Cascades served as a meaningful connection point for him when he moved to Oregon. In a more visceral sense, he's also climbed volcanos and been near them when they're active.
"It's scary, when I realize the earth is alive," Hernandez said with a laugh. "It's not inert."
So it's fitting that one of Oregon's volcanos looms in the backdrop of a new mural that Hernandez — a famed Portland artist — recently painted as part of a partnership between Wilco Farm Stores and the Portland Street Art Alliance (PSAA). The project — which took place at the property on Jean Way that will soon house a new Wilco store — was divided into two segments. First, Hernandez restored a mural that was created by illustrator Mike Benny and painted by ArtFx in 1998.
"(In the original mural), the palette was pretty much earth tones and siennas and browns," Hernandez said. "I switched that to bring in more greens, blues, the crimson color, and it (lit) up in that."
When that work was finished, Hernandez — in consultation with team members at Wilco — added additional scenery that extended the mural by about 864 square feet. And that was where he could add his unique flair to the project.
The finished product shows the sun peeking over a volcano, its light shining across rolling hills and over a canopy of trees before hitting a barn. In the foreground are horses and human figures working in fields with various farm animals. A large box of produce serves as something of a bridge between the original mural and Hernandez's piece, and Hernandez points out that the box shape-shifts depending on where you're standing.
Like the volcanos he so loves, Hernandez's piece is very much alive. And while it's a collaboration with Wilco, the mural is intended to highlight the lifestyle supported by the store rather than the products themselves.
"I didn't want to come out with an idea of illustrating merchandises from the store, basically," Hernandez said. "I'd like to have more of the image of landscape of Oregon, the people of Oregon, and in that way (viewers) can associate those activities with Wilco."
Hernandez began work on restoring the original mural Sept. 13. That process took about three weeks, and Hernandez expected that his original piece would be done by the end of October.
For Wilco, it's a fitting addition to the new store that's expected to open in early 2020.
"Agriculture is a vital part of Oregon's culture," Wilco CEO Sam Bugarsky said in a press release. "We wanted to help celebrate the area's heritage in a way that adds value to the community. This was the perfect opportunity to share the story of farming in a modern way."
PSAA Executive Director Tiffany Conklin added that the mural is an exciting addition to Lake Oswego's well-known art scene.
"It's really exciting to see more public art happening in Lake Oswego," Conklin said. "I'm not sure how many murals are here, but I'd be interested to know. This is a pretty prominent one being on (Boones Ferry Road)."
Community members have already taken notice, and Hernandez said the reception for the work couldn't have been warmer.
"The response of the people is amazing. Amazing," he said. "I was moved the other day — a lady came and told me, 'Do you like coffee, or what?' I said, 'Well, I like mochas,' and she brought me a mocha with a cookie. I was almost in tears."
You can see the mural on the side of the Wilco property along Boones Ferry Road. To learn more about PSAA, visit http://www.pdxstreetart.org/.
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