In Izze Ortiz’s Hyde Park mural, the people are either plants or a seed. Here’s why.
The Humboldt Park artist says the message in the mural on a Metra viaduct on 55th Street near South Lake Park Avenue is that kids, like plants, need to be nurtured to grow.
At one point, Ortiz’s grandmother told a story about how, growing up, the artist’s mother sometimes would make drawings of herself when she was sad. That clicked with Ortiz, who turned to art as an emotional outlet, too.
Chicago’s murals & mosaics
Part of a series on public art. More murals added every week.
The importance of family is a key theme in Ortiz’s first solo mural, titled “Essence of Growth,” painted last fall on a Metra underpass on 55th Street near South Lake Park Avenue in Hyde Park.
“If we nurture children, they can continue to bloom,” the artist says.
The mural shows people, as plants, at different ages. A seed? That’s a baby. A full-grown plant? An adult. There’s an in-between flower child, too.
It’s mostly done in blues and purples — the artist’s favorite colors — with pastel-blue water, essential to life, seen flowing throughout and the oldest figure shown watering the baby seed so it will grow.
“If you look at nature, there’s a lot of symbiotic relationships where the plants are helping each other,” says Ortiz, 26, who lives in Humboldt Park. “It’s natural to take care of one another. And I thought of it to a larger scale: human beings taking care of each other.”
Ortiz loves cartoons, and that’s clear in the characters, inspired by Rebecca Sugar, the creator of the Cartoon Network series “Steven Universe,” and by two other animated shows — “Teen Titans” and “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”
“Hero journeys are very important to me,” Ortiz says. “That’s why being an artist is so interesting because it’s like a cause for you to keep growing.”
As a teenager, Ortiz wrote brooding poems and attended the “Louder Than a Bomb” youth poetry festival. But the artist liked other people’s funny poems even more.
Carrying that mindset into painting, Ortiz says, is the idea now, creating pieces that are “optimistic” and make people feel good.