In Joliet, an Aztec goddess watches over new mural at Spanish Community Center
Sonryze — one of three artists collaborating on the unfinished work — hopes it will be ‘the antidote to a year of negativity’ for those who view it.
Standing about 30 feet high, a female figure holding bushels of multicolored corn and a headdress of sun rays now watches over Joliet’s Spanish Community Center, 309 N. Eastern Ave.
Chicago’s murals & mosaics
Part of a series on public art in the city and suburbs. More murals are added every week.
Xilonen or Chicomecoatl — her name — is the Aztec deity of maize and the centerpiece of a new mural collaboration among Joliet artists Sonryze and Erick “Roho” Garcia and Chicago artist Rahmaan Statik.
Sonryze, who painted Xilonen, chose her as the centerpiece to represent one of the core features of the Spanish Community Center — its food pantry. The symbolism of maize and corn also pays tribute to the importance of corn in the Midwest, he says.
The four-handed figure holds bushels of red, yellow and purple corn. A beaded necklace made of different planets in our solar system sits atop a dress reminiscent of outer space.
Flanking the towering figure is the “Council of Grandmothers,” five women “representing the racial makeup” of the far southwest suburb and the theme of unity in diversity, Sonryze says. They represent the peoples of Africa and the Indigenous peoples of North America, Mexico, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe.
Statik says the women also represent “the ancestors, motherly elders and lived life,” with a particular focus given to the woman, seen in a green head wrap, Statik calls “Mother Africa.”
One corner above the woman features an erupting volcano and lightning atop a pattern of “geometric tessellation” to show “the force of nature with math and man made reality,” Statik says.
Next to her earring is a miniature representation of the Milky Way.
Patterns based on the Kente cloth of Ghana lie atop a city with the sun rising, a “fictitious Africa” combining famous landmarks to “show the vastness of Africa all in one spot,” Statik says.
Each figure is accompanied by a landscape.
Like for the images of Cahokia, a once-sprawling Native American metropolis in southern Illinois. The pyramids of Central America and shadows of Buddhist temples of Cambodia lie below the rest of the “elders.”
This section of the mural is set to be contrasted with a jam session — like a mirror image but featuring grandfathers, painted by Garcia, the center’s artist-in-residence.
The mural is about 75% finished — delayed by weather and scheduling conflicts. Sonryze says he’s expecting it will be done by early June.
Sonryze, who was born and grew up in Joliet, worked at the Spanish Community Center after high school.
All three artists attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago at different times.
Sonryze hopes the mural helps people get a sense of healing after a tumultuous year. He calls it “the antidote to a year of negativity. I wanted people to look at it and see themselves in it.”