With art as with gardening, Albany Park muralist Christian Paz creates something from nothing
With ‘Mi Jardin’ — ‘My Garden’ — he digs deep into faith and family.
Chicago’s murals & mosaics
Part of a series on public art. More murals added every week.
“The hibiscus flower represents one of my favorite places on earth, Maui,” says Paz, 39, who lives in Albany Park.
The “plumerias are a representation of my kids” — he has four kids, the youngest born Dec. 21. “The birds of paradise are some of my favorite plants, and the lilies are just decorative.”
Paz says the “roses are for my mother” — a “green thumb” who “usually plants cucumbers, peppers, mint, zucchini, tomatoes and fills the rest of the garden with whatever plants are on sale. But one of her favorites is the Easter lily.”
Paz says he’s come to appreciate gardening more during the pandemic. It’s become an outlet for him.
Tucked within the flowers in the mural is a human heart, which he says represents love and the passage from the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament that says: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
“Treasure is found — for me — in God’s grace,” Paz says.
The mural at Irving Park Road and Francisco Avenue — titled “Mi Jardin,” Spanish for “My Garden,” completed in 2020 — also includes a small arched window that offers a view of a beach and ocean and the sun. Within the yellow of the sun is a faint cross, a symbol of Christianity.
Paz, who was raised Catholic but considers himself a nondenominational Christian, says he’s a “beach bum” who finds peace there and in his faith.
The bird and the flowers are “very tropical, very bright, and that has to do with my heritage,” he says.
He was born in Chicago after his parents left El Salvador shortly amid the civil war there that went on into the early 1990s.
“I was really involved in art class and after-school programs, and in my early 20s I started to paint lots of graffiti,” he says. “On my block, I was influenced by an older group of graffiti artists. One of the most influential artists went by the name of ‘Skeptic.’ ”
The graffiti art “just evolved into painting murals,” which are “more open for everybody to enjoy.”
The flower-filled mural was Paz’s second at that location last year. He says he convinced the liquor store’s owner to let him do an initial mural there of Chicago’s skyline. It sits side by side with his painting of flowers and other images.
“I’ve been wanting that wall forever,” he says, pointing to its location on a busy street, a prime canvas for street art. “I said, ‘I’ll paint you Chicago on the wall.’ That led me to paint the rest of the wall.”
Paz says it took him about 40 hours altogether to paint both murals. But he’s not done there.
“It’s a work in progress,” he says. “I might add a couple of plants or different designs to it, it’s ever-evolving.”
He’s also done other murals around Chicago but is still a part-time artist, also working part-time as an airline ramp worker at O’Hare Airport.
Paz says he finds satisfaction in creating something from nothing — whether it’s filling a blank space with art or, with gardening, planting seeds in a patch of dirt that sprouts something beautiful.
“They parallel each other,” he says.