The construction work that’s temporarily shut down the CTA’s Lawrence Avenue L stop has meant more people are getting on and off at the nearby Wilson Avenue station instead — much to Joe Miller’s delight.
That gives them more time to notice Miller’s new mural, titled “Uptown Dot King,” which spans 140 feet of a building at 1124 W. Wilson St. in view of the busy L stop.
“Being from Chicago, I’ve always wanted a piece that was visible from the train,” says Miller, who lives in Lincoln Square. “And not just a little thing you can spot. Something that was almost intended for the train. That first train ride looking at it was pretty awesome.”
Working with his girlfriend Sunni DiLuzio, Miller, 38, painted the mural in August as the jewel of the second annual Uptown Art Week, a nine-day event featuring mural painting and art exhibits and the creation of close to 150 new art works, according to the economic development group Uptown United.
The group has been working with the Uptown Chamber of Commerce to beautify the area around the century-old Wilson station, which underwent major reconstruction that ended in 2018.
With the current CTA work closing the Lawrence Avenue station, “People who used to use Lawrence every day now have a two-block detour,” says Justin Weidl, Uptown United’s neighborhood services director. He says the aim with Miller’s mural and other art “was to kind of make that two-block pedestrian detour as fun and exciting as possible.”
The dots are part of Miller’s signature style. Usually, they don’t need to be very big — just an inch in diameter, small enough to use a sponge to create them.
But, working on a larger scale, with a 35-feet-high wall as his canvas, he and DiLuzio had to figure out how to make much bigger dots. They experimented with different techniques before landing on using empty paint cans as stencils and spray paint for the dots, then dripping house paint down the walls to create streaks.
They also had to get used to working up high from what’s called a swing stage, which was more stable than the scissor lifts Miller usually uses, kind of like a mobile “balcony” with more room for supplies.
The heights didn’t bother them. They just had to keep moving it as their work progressed. And storms slowed them down. Despite completing large swaths of the mural in only a few days, it took nearly a month to finish.
“There’s always those moments in my career where I got to do these more labor-intensive projects,” Miller says. “And I always hear my dad’s voice ringing in my head: ‘Well, it’s what you signed up for.’ So if you want to paint big walls, you got to do the things to get up there.”
He says painting “Uptown Dot King” “was the icing on the cake for this summer.”