Meta 4 Icicle Journey

Title:  Meta 4 Icicle Journey

Site:  Nobel Elementary School
4127 W. Hirsch, Chicago

Artist:  Olivia Gude and Beatriz Santiago Muñoz

Community Participants:  Nobel Elementary School students

Sponsors:  Nobel School and Chicago Public Art Group

Year:  1995

Scale:  650 square feet

Materials:  Acrylic paint on plaster

Information: This mural was designed by the artists based on drawings from the children of Nobel School. The artists conducted workshops with each class and asked students to share experiences of travel and journeying. The artists wove many myths and stories about journeys into the mural and then shared these with the school faculty so that these stories could become part of the school’s literary culture and history. The mural was painted by the artists during the school day allowing students to watch the evolution and completion.

This is a mural about coming and going, about journeys of the heart, mind, and body. It begins on both ends, but does not end in the middle. Journeys of life are overlapping and crisscrossing. It is a mural about the sadness of saying good byes and the challenges of moving to new places.

Some of the characters you may recognize are the familiar foursome from the Wizard of Oz. But look again, who is that Tin Man in the Armani suit? Why is he lost and where is he trying to go? Will his map show him the way? And look at Dorothy’s companion, the Scarecrow. His black and red suit suggests that perhaps he is more than he seems at first glance—Elegba at the crossroads?

In several scenes, we see Psyche dressed in blue carrying the fateful lamp, carrying a bottle to be filled with magical water, and enthusiastically setting out on her quest in shorts and running shoes. Nearby is a winged man. Is he Psyche’s lost Cupid or perhaps Icarus whose journey is doomed by his pride?

On the far right of the mural, the legendary Quetzacoatl leads his people on a journey away from the abandoned city. When people asked him, “Where are you going?” he would reply only, “ I am going to learn.”

Notice the maps near the center of the mural—in which one is the U.S. “upside down?” Who determines what is right-side up? Arrows show some of the paths of immigration that the families of the school’s students have made. The tornadoes remind us that unfortunately in this world, not all journeys are voluntary. Sometimes economic or political conditions move people forcibly.

One of our heroines negotiates treacherous storm-tossed waters in a fragile paper boat. Sometimes life seems like that. She sees other boats, other journeys, other stories, and reaches out her hands in a gesture of help and welcome even as she rides the choppy waves herself.