Painters have always used different shades of blue to give their artwork a certain intensity. For Thomas Gainsborough, a glistening blue was the key to his 18th-century work The Blue Boy. For Picasso, blue anchored a whole period in the early 1900s that conveyed solemnity and despair. Earlier this year, NoMe Edonna and four friends in the Furtherrr Collective cascaded blue over the entirety of their Lower Haight wall painting. Combined with its unusual pattern of shapes — everything from cubes and checkerboards to plant swirls and cloud formations — the work is a dense vision of blueness that is both atmospheric and something else Gainsborough and Picasso would have loved: practical.
Logistically, blue was much easier to use for San Francisco’s Furtherrr Collective, which includes the artists Mars-1 (Mario Martinez), Oliver Vernon, Damon Soule, and David Choong Lee. The group has done three books and scores of other artwork together.
“A lot of our other works are colorful, but a lot of times, too, when you’re working with a wall that massive — we only had a week or a week-and-a-half on it, and sometimes it makes it a whole lot easier to just deal with one color scheme,” Edonna says. “You’re trying to figure out all this light and shadow and composition. And if you throw color in there, that’s a whole other thing.”
The collective made special trips to do the mural. Vernon and Soule now live in Grass Valley (in California’s Nevada County), and Edonna spends much of his time in southern Oregon, near Ashland, helping take care of a grandfather. Edonna drove six hours to San Francisco to help lead the group effort that transformed the outer wall of the Wild Feather store into a sea of blue.
“We know each other’s work so well that we know what everyone is capable of,” says Edonna, who’s 43. “Basically, it’s like free-form jazz, but visually. We all pick a spot. We start. And we play off of each other.”
Standing there and looking at the work changes your perspective of blue. People who walk by in the color (passersby are frequently dressed in blue jeans) extend the mural outward for an instant. The artwork’s lack of a title gives people a chance to imagine one, asNew Yorker readers would do for one of the magazine’s cartoon caption contests.Blue Trippin’?Under a Blue Spell?The Ocean of My Mind?
“That wall has seen a lot of murals over the years,” says Edonna. “We’ve gotten a lot of good feedback from people walking by.”