Laura Spalding Best recently finished a new mural titled Convergence at the intersection of Grand Avenue and Roosevelt Street. It’s painted on two exterior walls of the Marisol Credit Union building that’s currently under construction and scheduled to open on Tuesday, September 12.
The mural comprises eight circular or semi-circular vignettes connected by images of utility lines. The vignettes capture iconic Phoenix imagery such as the Arizona State Fairgrounds, Westward Ho, and South Mountain. They range in size from 8 to 12 feet in diameter.
One circular scene depicts a strip of Grand Avenue that’s one of the city’s best-known arts districts. That’s where Best signed the mural, on her rendition of the curb along a sidewalk dotted with large artist-decorated planters.
Best started the mural on Saturday, August 26, and finished it on Monday, September 4. In total, it took around 50 hours to paint, she says. To keep the mural consistent with her larger body of work, Best used the same palette that's prevalent in her oil paintings.
"The mural is really an extension of my studio practice," Best says. "It's a way to share my work with a larger part of the community that hasn't seen my work in gallery settings."
Intersections figure prominently in Best’s work, which often explores urban landscapes. Sometimes, she focuses on specific elements of the landscape, from power lines dotting desert horizons to man-made water features that function as faux waterfalls in an arid cityscape.
Last year, she filled a wall at Chartreuse gallery with oil paintings of faux waterfalls around metro Phoenix, painted onto several different shapes and sizes of tarnished silver platters, for a solo exhibition called "Inferior Mirage."
Next year, Best's work will be part of a group show at Phoenix Art Museum, which will spotlight Arizona artists who received a prestigious Contemporary Forum artist grant in June.
Marisol CEO and president Robin Romano approached Best about creating a new mural early last year, after seeing her other murals around town. “The new building is more modern, and I thought Laura’s style would be a great fit,” Romano says.
Best’s Centennial mural, painted on the south wall of an APS Power Station at Second and Garfield streets, was commissioned to commemorate Arizona’s centennial in 2012.
She painted a mural called Mirage on an exterior wall for Hot Box Gallery, a shipping container transformed into an art gallery on a vacant lot in Roosevelt Row. After Mirage was tagged with graffiti in March 2015, Best replaced it with another design.
Romano met with Best several times, coming up with a shared concept for the Marisol mural before painting got underway on Saturday, August 26. Best didn't settle on a name until the mural was nearly completed.
The full mural spans about 70 linear feet, across walls that are 17 feet high.
"I'm really proud of the mural," she says. "It's been a long time coming."
Fourteen years ago, Best rented her first art space, inside the Citywide Studios on 15th Avenue, where other emerging artists included Rachel Bess, Sue Chenoweth, Colin Chiilag, and Luster Kaboom (David Quan). Quan's carnivorous plant mural still wraps around the building.
"Grand Avenue informed a lot of who I am as an artist," Best says.
This isn’t the first time that Marisol, a community credit union founded in Phoenix during 1954, has incorporated mural art. The new building at 1515 West Roosevelt Street is replacing the credit union’s former headquarters at 721 North Third Street, where Romano previously commissioned a desert-theme mural by Angel Diaz.
Romano plans to commission at least two more murals for the new location, but hasn’t settled on which artists to approach just yet.
“We’ll have more art components at the new location, too,” Romano says. Expect sculptural pieces, cement spheres installed long the building’s periphery, plus a gallery situated inside the building.
First up for the new gallery will be an exhibition of Best’s work, including documentation of the Convergence mural taking shape. Phoenix artist Claire A. Warden has been taking pictures and rolling video throughout the painting process.
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That exhibition is scheduled to open sometime this fall, but Best says she doesn't have that date yet. The exhibit will be titled "Intersections, Making the Mural."
Now that the mural is completed, it serves as a powerful reminder of the city’s history. But there’s something more, Romano says.
“Laura’s vignettes make up a larger vision of community and shared connections.”