4 women created a mural on Roosevelt Road in the South Loop celebrating women’s strength
The varying images and styles are meant to convey that “women are very complex,” one of the artists says. “We have dark sides, light sides, colorful sides.”
She searched on Instagram and found the artists — Julie Hernandez, Kristine Campbell and Fantasía Ariel — she wanted to help bring to life her vision: a mural representing the strength of women.
They worked for three weeks, each producing a portion of the mural at a shopping and residential complex at 150 W. Roosevelt Rd.
The women worked together only at times. But Campbell, 37, from Logan Square, says she loved how their individual styles came together.
“We needed to all be different in order to create this beautiful piece,” Campbell says.
The mural features an image of a Black woman, smiling, her eyes closed, painted by Ariel, 27.
“I wanted a striking portrait,” Swanson says of Ariel’s contribution. “I wanted that feeling of depth and reverence, but I didn’t want it to feel too heavy, either.”
Hernandez, 33, painted an adjacent black-and-white figure of a woman who connects to the other figure through hand-painted floral designs and a black semi-circle.
Campbell’s hyperrealistic purple, white and yellow flowers are meant to portray the nature of femininity Swanson says she wanted the mural to reflect.
Swanson, 40, who lives on the Near West Side, created a colorful backdrop and added white, wooden dots to Ariel’s image.
Swanson says she was thinking about the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 and the spread of COVID-19 and wanted an image of a woman of color who would be seen as above all of the pain and trauma in the world.
Ariel, who lives in Woodlawn, says she modeled her image on herself and a cousin.
“It stems from growing up and not seeing a lot of Black women in art,” Ariel says of her work. “When I did see women with the same complexion as me, they were more memorial paintings.
“It would’ve been really beautiful for all of these women to be praised while they were still here,” Ariel says. “It’s really important to show appreciation for the beautiful people that I know in my life, while they’re still living.”
Hernandez, who lives in Logan Square, says she gets inspiration for the floral images in her art from her home state of Hawaii. She says she wants people to come away from the South Loop mural thinking: “We can be anything.”
“As far as the mural in its entirety, for me, I think it means women are very complex,” Hernandez says. “We have dark sides, light sides, colorful sides. And, when I look at the piece, it’s kind of showing all the dimensions of that.”
Campbell says she wants her art to “inspire change, ignite conversation, offer compassion and hope.”
After they finished, Ariel says she watched as people took and posted pictures of themselves and of their daughters in front of the 84-feet-wide, 10-feet-high image. She says some told her they could see themselves in it.
“It makes me feel like I’m a part of something bigger,” Ariel says. “I know that a lot of times in life it is really easy to feel small and insignificant. But there’s definitely moments like this mural where I felt like I was doing some bigger than myself — literally and figuratively.”
Swanson says she plans for other female artists to contribute their styles to the mural over the next couple of years and wants to see it keep evolving.
Chicago’s murals & mosaics
Part of a series on public art. More murals added every week.