AJ Paliev did this mural, titled “Walking Clock,” during the pandemic when he was a student at Deerfield High School.

AJ Paliev did this mural, titled “Walking Clock,” during the pandemic when he was a student at Deerfield High School.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

In AJ Paliev’s Deerfield mural, horse, rider keep ‘marching forward . . . to an unknown place’

“Walking Clock” was done while he was a student at Deerfield High School and can be seen on an AT&T building on Deerfield Road near Waukegan Road.

The mural on Deerfield Road near Waukegan Road in Deerfield shows a “horseman” emerging from a tunnel inside a pocket watch and walking along train tracks through a field of sunflowers, with the earth somehow looming in the sky.

“It felt like he and the horse were marching forward from an unknown place to an unknown place,” says AJ Paliev, who created the mural during the COVID-19 pandemic while he was a student at Deerfield High School.

Paliev, now 19 and taking a gap year before college, says the piece he titled “Walking Clock,” which he describes as “surrealist,” was a statement on “how time is passing.”

“Time kind of slipped,” Paliev says of the early stages of the pandemic. “Nothing was getting done. It was kind of a stagnant period.”

Still, he says, even with the uncertainty the pandemic brought, the horse and its rider “kept moving forward.”

His artwork and an adjacent mural by Deerfield student Alexandra Schott have been displayed on an AT&T building for about two years now.

The mural “Memories Never Die” by Deerfield High School student Alexandra Schott.

The mural “Memories Never Die” by Deerfield High School student Alexandra Schott.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

But the student art contest that brought their creations to the site in 2021 will soon have new winners to replace them. Two other students could see their murals installed elsewhere in town as part of the same initiative.

Deerfield’s fine arts commission launched the project with the high school in 2017. At first, a single mural was chosen from participating high school students enrolled in visual arts courses. Later, the contest was expanded to two winners. Now, there could be four.

Most students create something digitally. The fine arts commission chooses the winning images, which are enlarged and printed onto vinyl, then installed in giant frames that stay on the wall year after year, says Mike Moran, the Deerfield High School graphic design teacher who helps oversee the contest.

The organizers “usually let the students do what they want to do,” Moran says. “I make it part of my class.”

Paliev says that, for his mural, “I wanted to create a dream-like scene.”

He used Photoshop to create his piece and says it’s “kind of like a digital collage. I was inspired by my grandpa, who’s also an artist.”

Schott wrote of her piece, which also focuses on time, as her beloved dog gets older: “This piece is inspired by the relationship between a girl and her dog and the progression of their relationship throughout the years. This girl and her dog are actually me and my dog, Jolie. Jolie is my best friend and we are completely inseparable. Jolie is turning 10 in December and as she gets older, I become sadder that my time with her is growing shorter.”

But she came to realize that, “although this feeling is completely normal, it is not what I should be thinking about. Jolie has changed my life in ways I never thought possible and she has always been the one thing that makes me feel like there are no worries in the world the moment I see and hug her. Life is too short to take your relationship with your animals for granted, and this is me making sure I cherish and remember every moment with Jolie.”

She titled her mural “Memories Never Die.”

About 70 students are taking part in the contest this year, with the winners to be chosen and new pieces installed over the next few months.

A winning mural from 2020 by Kamilija Intaite.

A winning mural from 2020 by Kamilija Intaite.

Provided

A winning mural from 2019 by Maddi Turner.

A winning mural from 2019 by Maddi Turner.

Provided

Jeff Marks, who chairs the fine arts commission, says the effort isn’t about “beautification” as much as fostering and celebrating art.

The older contest murals have been stored at Deerfield Village Hall, but “we’re looking for creative ways to reuse them in the community,” says David Fitzgerald-Sullivan, Deerfield’s liaison to the commission. “The art we get from the students every year is just overwhelmingly good.”

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Part of a series on public art in the city and suburbs. Know of a mural or mosaic? Tell us where and send a photo to murals@suntimes.com. We might do a story on it.

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