Frida Kahlo, a monarch butterfly and flowers brighten a Maywood alley in artist Yekseny Guerrero’s first public mural
The decor of the cafe that used to be at 612 Lake St. featured pictures of the Mexican artist and her artist-husband Diego Rivera. Guerrero took her cues from that.
So she asked for the job — and kept asking.
“I kept checking in every couple of months just to see if they could give me an opportunity,” says Guerrero, 23, who lives in Melrose Park. “They saw I was very enthusiastic.”
The cafe has since closed. But the mural Guerrero created in 2020 on an alley-facing wall of the building at 612 Lake St. is still there.
It features a painting of the late Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, flowers and a giant monarch butterfly to attract passersby to stop and take a selfie in front of the mural.
Guerrero says it took her five days to hand-paint the images and that she took her lead on what to include from the cafe’s interior decor.
It was heavy on “the golden age of Mexican cinema and art,” she says — “a lot of pictures inside the cafe of Frida, Diego Rivera,” Kahlo’s husband and a famed artist himself.
The cafe couldn’t pay her, Guerrero says, but covered the cost of her supplies and agreed to display some of her paintings inside.
Guerrero says art “has always been something I was interested in.” Her father “would do sketches and encourage me to do the same. In high school, I had the opportunity to take art classes and explore different mediums. But I wasn’t sure how to go about with it. It wasn’t till after I graduated high school when I started to get into painting and create commissions for people.
“Originally, my senior year of high school, I wanted to go to art school. But it was too expensive for me. I wanted to study fine arts. Instead, I decided to follow a career in art therapy.”
She says that allows her “to create art while also giving back to the community.
“I would say that a lot of my personal works that I’ve focused on have to do with issues within the Hispanic community, marginalized populations, politics and women’s issues.”
Guerrero says one of her artistic influences has been Milt Coronado, a Clearing artist whose murals have included tributes to murder victims and images ranging from Chance the Rapper to characters from video games.
She says Coronado “encouraged me to share my work to the public, with one way being creating murals.
“For that first mural in Maywood, he gave me a lot of advice and tips on how to create it and what materials to use.”
But he left it to her to do and didn’t join her in actually putting brush to wall.
“I said, ‘No, you got this,’” Coronado says. “I said, ‘That’s the only way you’ll learn. If you rely too much on other people, you’ll hold yourself back.’ And she’s got it.”
Chicago’s murals & mosaics
Part of a series on public art. More murals added every week.