Artist Matthew Mederer left New Jersey for Chicago 10 years ago in search of a new beginning.
Last winter, as he and his wife were stuck inside because of the coronavirus pandemic, Mederer, 37, came up with an idea for a mural reflecting another new start as he looked forward to spring and a hoped-for waning of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I guess everybody was in some degree personally affected by it,” he says. “I was trapped in my apartment, me and my wife, and we had a small apartment. And it was lonely, and I was looking forward to getting out of it and starting life over.”
Once Mederer started drawing, he knew he wanted to paint this mural in the spring. His wife titled it for him: “Prima,” short for primavera — Spanish for spring.
He painted the 28-feet-by-30-feet mural in April on the alley side of a building at Fullerton and Milwaukee avenues not far from where he lives in Logan Square.
It features an image of a woman in bright colors to represent fertility and the vibrant hues of springtime. She’s figuratively staring into the future through a prism and letting a blanket fall off her shoulders as she steps into the new season.
Mederer says being inside so much because of the pandemic made him “hungrier” to start new projects as soon as possible.
He says he hopes the mural will inspire people to find strength in new beginnings — much as he tried to do after a breakup 10 years ago when he loaded all of his belongings in his car and set off for Chicago, a city where he’d never been. He says he figured: It’s a day’s drive away; that should work.
Mederer says he never went to art school but has been working seriously on his art since his early teens and started working on his street art as soon as he arrived.
It’s still a side thing for him. He’s a database developer for a healthcare consulting firm. But he says he’s still completed 33 professional projects, taking painting commissions around the country.
He says he tries to separate his artist side from other parts of his life, for instance by signing the Logan Square mural “cooldiscorich” — a name he took out that was inspired by a Washington, D.C., graffiti artist named Dan Hogg who’s known as Cool Disco Dan.
It took about two weeks, working three to four hours every night, to complete “Prima,” using mostly spray paint.
He did it as part of “Project Logan” — a stretch of walls covered in art between the California and Logan Square CTA Blue Line L stops.
Mederer says he based the woman in the mural on a couple of photos he was drawn to online because of the way they were filled with light.
He sees “Prima” as a possible turning point for himself.
“I used to have my own style in graffiti,” he says. “But, when I started doing more street art, I’ve been kind of all over the place. And I’ve been settling on doing portraits and adding a kind of optical illusion to them.”