Julia Franco’s mural at 4744 N. Kimball Ave. in Albany Park shows two talking panthers whispering into the ears of a woman who seems to have come straight out of a 1960s ad.

Julia Franco’s mural at 4744 N. Kimball Ave. in Albany Park shows two talking panthers whispering into the ears of a woman who seems to have come straight out of a 1960s ad.

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What are the panthers in this Albany Park mural telling this woman?

Chicago artist Julia Franco will leave that to you to decide but says they represent a voice that guides us through life — “every transition, every chapter in your life.”

What are the figures in the wall at 4744 N. Kimball Ave. in Albany Park saying? Chicago artist Julia Franco painted the mural there. But she’ll leave it to you to decide.

It features two panthers speaking into the ears of a 1960s model who appears to be a vintage-inspired woman with blacked-out eyes, bright pink lips and slicked-down hair.

“The tongues coming out is like they’re telling a story or giving you advice,” Franco says. “They’re saying something. But it’s up to the viewer to see what are they saying.”

“I get inspired a lot by vintage posters, vintage fashion, patterns,” Franco says. “The girl that you see in the mural is from a 1960s mod ad.”

She’s wearing what at a glance might appear to be earrings but actually are the talking panthers.

Chicago artist Julia Franco, who grew up in Logan Square.

Chicago artist Julia Franco, who grew up in Logan Square.

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Spotlighted by two yellow circles, the big cats seem to be speaking ferociously into her ears — as told by the blue beads of spit that Franco added around their mouths to signal the feeling of “when you’re speaking very powerfully or you’re speaking about something you’re very excited about.”

The panthers’ tongues twist and turn all the way to the top of the mural, enclosed by quotation marks at the top and the bottom of the piece.

Franco created “Le Panther” as a character in 2017 and has incorporated it in many of her pieces, from murals to screen prints.

Julia Franco incorporates her “Le Panther” character into much of her art, including screen prints such as this one.

Julia Franco incorporates her “Le Panther” character into much of her art, including screen prints such as this one.

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They’re a representation of human evolution, Franco says, a voice that guides us through all the stages of life.

“They’re evolving with every stage that you go, every transition, every chapter in your life,” she says.

Julia Franco and another of her murals featuring her “Le Panther” character. This one is in the 6400 block of North Ravenswood Avenue. She painted it during the 2020 election to encourage people to vote.

Julia Franco and another of her murals featuring her “Le Panther” character. This one is in the 6400 block of North Ravenswood Avenue. She painted it during the 2020 election to encourage people to vote.

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She painted the mural at the end of 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic raged. Nicolas Fonté, another Chicago artist, asked her to add her art to the wall on the building that houses Nighthawk, a cocktail bar.

Franco, who lives in Rogers Park, grew up in Logan Square. She says she wanted to make something that would inspire kids to create the way graffiti in her neighborhood did when she was young.

Julia Franco working on her mural on Kimball Avenue in Albany Park. She painted it at as the COVID-19 pandemic raged at the end of 2020.

Julia Franco working on her mural on Kimball Avenue in Albany Park. She painted it at as the COVID-19 pandemic raged at the end of 2020.

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“As a little girl, when I lived in Logan Square, we didn’t have a car, so we would always take public transportation, or we would walk everywhere we had to be,” Franco says. “I would always see graffiti in the streets. And what would catch my eye would be the colors and the flow of the letters, the space that they use, the building, how it looks different when they added their stamp to it.”

She has a 9-month-old daughter, which helps inspire her art.

“As a little girl walking around with my family when we went to run errands, it really captivated me and got me wanting to go back home and draw,” Franco says of the graffiti she’d see growing up. “I want that to be an experience for another little girl or little boy to see and want to create.”

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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.

Click on the map below for a selection of Chicago-area murals

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