A mural by artist James Jankowiak at 59th Street and Central Park Avenue on the Southwest Side that pairs a painted tree with a real one.

James Jankowiak’s “Flight Patterns” mural at 59th Street and Central Park Avenue on the Southwest Side pairs a painted tree with a real one.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

James Jankowiak made use of a real tree for this mural near Midway Airport

His “Flight Patterns” mural at 59th Street and Central Park Avenue makes it seem the real tree is sprouting from the painted tree trunk. And check out the birds.

Take a spin by 59th Street and Central Park Avenue, and you might do a double take, wondering: Is that a real tree or a mural of a tree?

It’s both. A mural by artist James Jankowiak on a rail viaduct in the shadow of Midway Airport shows a tree sprouting from the ground in near-perfect alignment with the top of a real tree.

Stand back a bit, and the faux tree and the real one blend together almost seamlessly.

There’s also more to Jankowiak’s creation, titled “Flight Patterns,” which he painted last summer at the border of four neighborhoods: West Lawn, Chicago Lawn, Gage Park and West Elsdon.

Birds of prey and a tiny airplane in James Janowiak’s “Flight Patterns” mural on the Southwest Side.

Birds of prey and a tiny airplane in James Janowiak’s “Flight Patterns” mural on the Southwest Side.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

Colorful stripes run parallel to the tree trunk in the mural. Dark birds swirl about. A moon rises. The viaduct also is covered in other similar images, including inconspicuous airplanes.

Viewed through the arches in a viaduct, the birds painted on a wall appear to be in motion.

Viewed through the arches in a viaduct, the birds painted on a wall appear to be in motion.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

If you drive through the viaduct and look at the images of the birds through the arches, it appears like an old animated film, with the birds in motion.

“I made it so in each opening there’s a silhouette of a different bird in flight,” says Jankowiak, who grew up in Back of the Yards and still lives on the Southwest Side. “It looks like a bird is flying with you as you go through the viaduct.”

Jankowiak says of the birds, “They’re all raptors — peregrine falcons, red-tailed hawks, Cooper’s hawks.”

He says he loves that the populations of many birds of prey, once decimated, have made comebacks.

At his art studio in Pilsen, he says, “We have a family of peregrine falcons that live on our roof.”

James Jankowiak in front of his mural.

James Jankowiak in front of his mural.

Xavier Martin

He included a few airplanes as part of the flight theme — which is partly a statement about “freedom” — and because Midway is nearby.

Jankowiak hopes the mural inspires kids to appreciate art and also nature.

He had help in creating the mural from a group of students who did much of the actual painting.

“This is for the people of the neighborhood,” he says.

He wanted them to enjoy it and says, “I’m entertaining myself at the same time.”

Murals and Mosaics Newsletter
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Chicago’s murals & mosaics


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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