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One Of These Murals Is Not Like The Others — Or Is It?

By Patty Wetli | September 19, 2017 9:05am
 Wilson Bridge and Lawrence Avenue Murals share a common theme: the Chicago River
Wilson Bridge Lawrence Avenue Murals
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ALBANY PARK — In a matter of complete coincidence, two recently unveiled murals — commissioned by separate entities and painted by different artists — share a common source of creative inspiration that's also the theme of a third, not commissioned, work of street art.

Take a look at these interpretations of the Chicago River running through Lincoln Square and Albany Park.

• Wilson Avenue Bridge

Neighbors began planning, and raising funds for, the Wilson Bridge murals back in 2014, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Ravenswood Manor Improvement Association. [All photos DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

A four-panel mural has transformed the 103-year-old bridge's concrete gateways. It depicts scenes of life along the river, as viewed from Ravenswood Gardens on the east and Ravenswood Manor on the west.

"I would sneak into people's back yards taking pictures," said JoAnne Conroy, the artist behind the mural's design.

She and neighborhood muralist Tom Melvin spent six weeks painting the panels, starting with an outline that they transferred from paper to the bridge using a technique known as "pouncing," which dates back to Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel.  

JoAnne Conroy and Tom Melvin celebrated the mural's dedication.

Conroy said it was "wildly rewarding" to meet all of the neighbors who swung by to check in on the mural's progress.

"Art is a community builder," she said. "It's not just about the final thing. It's about how can we get the community not just interested in art but each other."

Mural panel on the east end of the bridge.

• Lawrence Avenue, Easy Breezy Laundromat

Franklin Riley, atop ladder, at work on the Lawrence Avenue mural.

Just days after the bridge mural was officially dedicated, Franklin Riley took paintbrush to brick at 2803 W. Lawrence Ave., a short walk north from Wilson.

Though Riley conceived of his design entirely independently from Conroy and Melvin's work, his mural not only also focuses on the Chicago River but it makes uses of a similar painterly style and tranquil color palette that's heavy on watery blues and greens.

The Lawrence mural's three panels jumble together different parts of Lincoln Square, Riley said, from its quaint Old World "Square" to the river on its western boundary. 

Look for an "Easter egg" in one of the panels. Riley's signature is to incorporate an airplane into his art. Given neighbors' touchiness regarding increased air traffic over Lawrence Avenue, Riley said he was asked to tone down that element, but it's visible to those in the know (click through slideshow).

A view of the Chicago River from the Lawrence Avenue bridge.

• Lawrence Avenue, Summit Industries

Just west of Riley's mural, across the Lawrence Avenue bridge, the former home of Summit Industries has long provided a tempting canvas for street artists.

The artists behind the expansive mural along the building's roof have finally been identified: Amuse126 and MORGAN.

"That is a personal favorite location of mine as it was always an iconic location to me as a kid," Amuse126 told DNAinfo via email.

"Our work brought a new life to that bridge," he said.

Cartoonish fish bookend the mural and while they look like the work of a separate artist, they were in fact painted by Amuse126 and MORGAN.

"We painted that in reference to 'The Simpsons' Blinky, the three-eyed fish, and the polluted Chicago River," Amuse126 explained.

(In "Simpsons" lore, Blinky's mutation was caused by living in ponds and lakes near a nuclear power plant.)

A pair of Blinkys on the building's north side cleverly incorporate Amuse126 and MORGAN's "throw-up" — a graffiti artist's icon or logo of sorts. 

Amuse126's signature "AM" throw-up can also be seen in another Lawrence Avenue mural he recently painted for the Chicago Bears.

Amuse126's "throw-up" on the Chicago Bears mural (left) and incorporated into Blinky (right).