Two new murals now adorn the Durham Convention Center’s East Chapel Hill Street side. They are difficult to miss — but that is the point.
The two murals were installed by the North Carolina Museum of Art to celebrate the museum's upcoming exhibit, “Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Mexican Modernism from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection.” The exhibit will open Oct. 26 and will run through Jan. 19.
According to an NCMA press release, the two murals, entitled "I Am My Own Muse" and "Juchari Xiranhua/Nuestras Raices/Our Roots" are the work of artists Cecilia Lueza and Cornelio Campos, respectively.
Several groups helped with the completion of the murals, including students from the NCMA’s Teen Art Council, El Pueblo and El Centro Hispano.
Angela Lombardi, NCMA manager of academic and community outreach, said these murals bring something very special to Durham.
“I think the murals bring a really grateful surprise for the Latin/Mexican community from the people I've gotten to talk to because it's a wonderful, really visible show of indigenous symbolism,” Lombardi said.
Lombardi said Campos incorporated motifs from Mexico into his design.
"I think people who are especially from that area of Mexico, or familiar with Mexican folk art, can see and identify readily that there is something very traditional and celebratory about the culture of Mexico, that's brought right smack in the heart of Durham,” Lombardi said.
Lombardi said Campos' mural features two monarch butterflies, symbolizing one adult and one child.
"We really wanted there to be a child-size pair of wings next to the adult size, just speaking to the issue of immigration and really hoping that people in the community would identify with that," Lombardi said. "And be able to see themselves in that imagery and also place themselves in that mural with the idea that they're placing themselves in North Carolina."
Lueza said she hopes the community can gather around her mural.
“I think it brings a lot of brightness, color, dynamic, and it creates that interesting focal point for the community and makes a photo-op, I hope," Lueza said. "And so I guess that's the main purpose of the mural, to create a special spot in downtown, an activated space, and bring people together and create a connection with the public in general.”
Lueza credits Kahlo’s life and work as an artist as her inspiration for this particular mural.
“Well the mural is inspired by Frida Kahlo, who is this very important and controversial peer in the history of art,” Lueza said. “My inspiration is Frida herself. I work to celebrate her as a remarkable woman.”
Lueza also said she and Campos’ murals are connected by the happiness and exposure to Mexican culture that they bring to downtown Durham. Both Lueza and Lombardi agree murals are valuable mediums for public art.
"You are creating, helping to create memories and giving people a place to celebrate and to remember," Lueza said. "And I think that's very special and that's what I love about public art — that connection you can create to the art world and to the public."