In a cobblestone nook in the West Loop, this mural is to your left and right and above, too
Jason Brammer says he wanted it to feel like a portal to ‘a magical realm that draws the gaze skyward with growing vines and swirling tendrils of gold.’
Chicago’s murals & mosaics
Part of a series on public art. More murals added every week.
He painted it in 2020 on opposite walls and the ceiling of a cobblestone nook in the 100 block of North Peoria Street, setting meandering vines against a backdrop of a hazy blue sky pocked with a smattering of clouds.
“The story to the mural is that I want to welcome walking visitors into the space by creating a magical realm that draws the gaze skyward with growing vines and swirling tendrils of gold,” says Brammer, 47.
He says he views it as a “portal to” the Gin Alley residential and retail district.
The idea behind the imagery, he says, “is the mythological notion of a tree or plant connecting us to a higher plane. In mythical terms, this can be seen in the ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ fairy tale, Yggdrasil — the ‘World’s Tree’ from Norse mythology — and other cosmological traditions.”
Describing the greenery in his work, Brammer says, “As it climbs into the sky, it doesn’t go straight up, but it goes away from the viewer and back at the same time. To me, that just conveys more space. It enhances the alternate-reality part of it.
“This is nature pulling you up into another realm. If you look at the big wall, it’s like you could jump on and climb up it.”
He says he’s “done wall-to-wall and whole-room murals including the ceilings, so I’m used to covering a lot of ground. But this Gin Alley mural is open on both sides.”
Brammer has a studio in Humboldt Park and has lived in Chicago for more than 20 years.
“I grew up in Indianapolis,” he says, “and learned to airbrush in high school. Growing up, I assisted my mom, who is also an artist, with mural projects and helped her cut handmade, carved tiles. After high school, I started out at Savannah College of Art and Design on a scholarship and then moved to Bloomington, Indiana, where I pursued traditional figure painting and academic drawing at Indiana University.”
But then music provided a detour.
“I dropped out of college when my band Old Pike got signed to Sony 550 Records,” Brammer says. “Our band toured for years, and one of the highlights was opening for John Mellencamp in front of 18,000 people on New Year’s Eve in 1999.
“In 2001, I moved to Chicago and began working up here doing murals primarily. My girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife, ended up quitting her corporate job as a project manager in 2007, and we have been business partners ever since.”
Brammer says his “favorite thing about painting murals is how they take shape, develop and get more exciting as I get closer to the completion of the piece. By the time I’m adding water drops and final details, I’m nearly giddy with the excitement of it. If I’m working outside, I love it when someone comes up to say hello. Hearing from people who like the art and seeing its effect on those who are interested is greatly rewarding.”
Aside from murals, “I’m really excited about having designed and painted a few custom drum kits for Jimmy Chamberlin of The Smashing Pumpkins and about designing concert posters for My Morning Jacket and Robert Plant.”
Click on the map below for a selection of Chicago-area murals