If there’s anyone you need to know about in the Jacksonville art scene, it’s Shaun Thurston.
Thurston’s work has been resonating throughout Jacksonville for the past two years thanks to his success at One Spark. After raking his winnings in 2013, he sought to create 20 murals in the year to follow, culminating in the grand reveal of #ProjectAtrium at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Jacksonville during the 2014 festival.
This mural, located at roughly 800 W Forsyth St., is one of several paintings around Jacksonville leading up to Thurston’s major piece in MOCA. This series is entitled “Satellite” with another prominent piece in the series at the corner of 1st and Main St in Springfield, just north of downtown. Tragically, just two blocks from this location a structure fire engulfed another mural at the corner of Jefferson and W. Forsyth along with the historic building, the former Davis Furniture Company warehouse.
What makes these crystals so exciting is the link they create between the public art space and the museum art space – two conceptually very different arenas. “Having an element of the work created outside of the museum, but in support of Project Atrium, is unique and key to this project,” MOCA curator Ben Thompson explained about commissioning Thurston for the #ProjectAtrium piece. These crystal murals around town essentially served as sketch pads for Thurston to work out the final details for his major piece in MOCA, showing the public a glimpse at the creative process from idea and sketches, to the final piece in the downtown gallery.
With this wall, Thurston creates convincing three-dimensional geometric shapes on a two dimensional surface. This is nothing new, really; it’s a fundamental skill of two-dimensional art. His portfolio shows far more sophisticated and elaborate paintings, but what makes this series so interesting is its deep roots in science. In a conversation with Daniel A. Brown, Thurston expresses interest in the idea of “impurities” in crystals, stemming from his fascination of natural rocks. It’s like the idea of discovering imperfections in something that is initially seen as perfect or ideal.
The crystals are visually formed within bold, highly saturated contour lines. He blends pastels of the same color for shading and shaping within each body. Streaks of white paint create the highlights and sparkles of the crystals; hatches of the primary color create shading and shadows. From left to right on this particular piece, Thurston created a gradient of color, tying all the crystal clusters together – red, purple, blue, green, yellow – flowing through the primary colors with secondary colors in between. Understanding the colors is one facet of this piece – the seemingly mechanically organic design of each of the crystals give the groupings their own sense of being.
Notice the green section with the maze-like organization, weaving your eye length-wise through each tower. On the middle door, where the blue and green crystals blend, the light blue cluster reminds me of city buildings in their design – very rigid with walls and what appears to be a slanted roof. Ultimately, each cluster is grouped together within a pane on the building, creating a space for Thurston to explore a color range and experiment with blending the paint to create unique forms.
The crystals are growing out of the building with their placement on the wall, on the boarded windows and doors of the building. The crystals have a building-like organization to them also, replicating the buildings that they’re on. Continuing the metaphor, if this entire wall was a city, each window pane is a district, neighborhood, or borough, with its own unique qualities of color, shape, structure, movement, personality, and flavor, yet still strangely cohesive. Noticing these nuances moves your eye from section to section, appreciating each pane for what it is, though the best idea of the city – of this entire mural – can be seen when viewed as a whole.
This elements of structure and placement on downtown facade link the crystals to the building conceptually through art, and pulling the public’s attention towards these buildings in downtown Jacksonville.
View the map below for the exact location of this piece and how it relates to the surrounding area. Use the Street View to get a casual observation of the wall and what’s across the street. Some of the most expensive flat surfaces to display art – or ads – is in direct view of roads, making non-commercial spaces a commodity for artists. The placement of the work is pivotal to it being viewed and understood.
I will be adding this and future works that I will be photographing into an interactive map. This map will serve as a virtual tour of the public art works in Jacksonville.