Commissioned for a pre-school audience, The Incredible Fly, plays with the conventions and the vernacular of mural painting. It also expands the concept of nature and environment as often exemplified by the rainforest, to include ecosystems and common life of local environments that often get overlooked because of habituation.
The request for a mural of the rain forest, an exotic landscape, caused me to reflect on the local Californian environment of the Central Valley, and the desire for, and cliches associated with, exoticism (and painting). I chose to start by painting an ordinary house fly, the opposite of exotic, in the middle of a white wall.
This fly was painted life-sized, and in an illusionistic manner replete with its own shadow. Thereafter, I waited to see if the children or teacher would discover it. It took a few days, but sure enough, the children found the fly, the teacher took a broom to try to swat it, and then one child remarked: "Its a tattoo!"
Thereafter, I painted a butterfly and a frog on the opposite wall, each time letting the children discover it. Then, I lay in a green background behind the butterfly and frog, which is the opposite of an academic approach, in which the ground is usually loosely established before the figure. This was followed by painting a tree for the frog to sit on, a much more camouflaged space for this amphibian than the green wall, again allowing the children to find the frog again.
Little by little the rest of the rainforest was laid down on the green wall to meet the request of the commission. The completed rainforest, teeming with a jaguar, toucan, sloth and other animal life, ran the full length of a twenty foot wall. Opposite this maximalist forest, a minimalist twenty foot white wall, with the tiny, life-sized painting of the fly, brings the idea of environment home.