BUCKTOWN — A montage of people- and nature-inspired scenes by renowned muralist Jeff Zimmermann is nearing completion along a massive wall facing the 606's elevated Bloomingdale Trail.
Just don't ask the artist to tell you what "The ConAgra Brands Mural" means.
"People are constantly asking me to 'explain' the mural to them. It's frustrating because I think the public is ready for the challenge of engaging artwork and trying to process it on their own," Zimmermann said from his Humboldt Park studio Thursday.
The title of the new mural is "The ConAgra Brands Mural," because it was underwritten by ConAgra, the packaged foods giant that recently moved its headquarters to Chicago.
"I wanted to paint this wall. They wanted to let people know they are in Chicago. I showed them a sketch and they said, 'Go for it,'" Zimmermann said.
Work on the 42-by-90-foot mural started on Aug. 29 and will end next week.
A dedication and unveiling ceremony is set for 10 a.m. Oct 29, according to a ConAgra spokeswoman. The free community event will include pumpkin-decorating, face-painting and food-sampling.
The mural shares a wall with Ipsento Coffee's second location at 1813 N. Milwaukee Ave. — overlooking a ground-level park where folks can hop on or off the 2.7-mile elevated Bloomingdale Trail, which runs through Bucktown, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Humboldt Park.
The mural showcases several floating heads from people Zimmermann encountered in the Bucktown park or nearby, in places such as the Milwaukee, Damen and North avenues intersection.
"I call it prospecting, and walk around where I am working and convince people to let me take their picture and then choose the most interesting faces," Zimmermann said.
The center of the mural features cupped hands holding a mound of soil. There is a star shape above the soil that likely will be perceived as a blooming flower, but Zimmermann said the geometric form is actually the "great stellated dodecahedron," symbolizing the universe.
Though the ConAgra name and logo will not appear on the mural, Zimmermann said he is considering putting it in 6-inch-high letters on the bottom right side of the wall, or on a plaque next to the wall.
ConAgra "deserves something. I am grateful; it's hard to get anyone inspired to support public art," Zimmermann said.
During a long career, the 46-year-old artist has been commissioned for dozens of murals throughout the world and Chicago, including Rogers Park, Little Village and Oak Street Beach. He's also done stained glass windows in a CTA Red Line station, among other projects featured on the self-taught artist's website.
He said he avoids "linear narratives" in favor of free verse or impressionistic images where visual ideas relate to each other or are juxtapositions.
"The design and imagery are supposed to make you puzzled and use your imagination and think, and hopefully, spark some dialog where one person asks the other what they see or interpret," he said.
ConAgra Foods provided the following information about the mural:
"We’re celebrating our presence in Chicago and collaborating with the community through our mural on The 606 park system. The mural is a local extension of the more entrepreneurial, innovative culture we’re fostering in our new space at the Merchandise Mart. And it illustrates our business’ transformation as we contemporize our iconic food brands and leverage new food brands."
Jeff Zimmermann in front of the mural. [Photos by DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]
The view of Jeff Zimmermann's new mural from across the street.
Hands hold soil sprouting a stellated dodecahedrion symbolizing the universe.
More floating faces and a corn cob boy juggling popcorn
Faces of local people photographed by Jeff Zimmermann were used in the mural.
View of the mural from the Bloomingdale Trail
A scene from the ConAgra Brands mural
Jeff Zimmermann's first mural, "Paid Programming" was painted in 1997 at North Avenue and Honore Street. [Provided]
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