In South Chicago, a mural that spans more than 100 feet across one side of a commercial building is comprised of four distinct images — representing nature’s traditional four elements: earth, water, air and fire.
“The Four Elements,” at 3101 E. 92nd St., was completed May 31 by four Chicago artists: Anna Murphy, Grigor Eftimov, Jesse Navarrete and Jasmina Cazacu. Each took artistic ownership of one of the elements.
Murphy chose earth — hers is the image on the far left of the piece, a shimmering gold background behind Mother Earth.
“All my work is about Mother Earth and the divine feminine energy, so that is what I was immediately drawn to,” says Murphy, 31.
The blue in the piece was inspired by classic cobalt blue and white porcelain, she says.
“The gold color that I used is a very healing, spiritual color for me and represents the divinity in my work,” Murphy says.
She also included foxgloves — bell-shaped blue flowers that remind her of those at her childhood home in East Sussex, England.
Eftimov, 42, chose air as his contribution to the massive mural, with a female figure in the dreamy image standing in the clouds atop a mountain, blowing to propel two other figures through the air as they take flight.
The figure at the bottom opens his arms — they span 16 feet — to fly. Blues take centerstage, with golds to highlight the border between earth and air.
“The way we laid them out, the female figure on my side not only is taking off, but it feels like she’s diving into the water on the other side,” Eftimov says.
The water that she’s diving into was painted by Navarrete.
Standing in front of the dark blues, there’s a boy with flaming neon hair, seemingly unable to control his joy — an image Navarette says was inspired by photos he’s seen.
“I like when people revert back to that fun you had when you were a kid, that wonder you had,” says Navarrete, 47.
He discovered sea slugs during his research for the project, so he blew up the small creature into a focal point in the giant mural.
The final element, fire, was done by Cazacu, who goes by “Diosa.” The image is of a young woman, holding flames in her hand, a mythical creature wrapped around her.
“It’s often seen as a destructive force,” Cazacu, 25, says of fire. “But it can also be seen as a positive thing. It could be warmth and light.”
The mural was initiated by a Chicago company, AlphaBomber Productions, headed by Abie Vasquez, a Chicago native who started his company to give artists the resources to complete big projects like “The Four Elements.” The artists chose the theme.
“I understand the importance of what it does to a child’s psyche walking through neighborhoods like that, that are bare, that don’t have any art,” says Vasquez, 42, who grew up in South Chicago. “It corrodes the soul. It’s corrosive. You have to inspire. You have to give them something to look at, to admire.”
Vasquez says he wants people living in the area to feel a sense of ownership over the public art.
“For them to find ownership in these pieces and say, ‘That’s our artwork,’ that’s powerful,” Vasquez says.