New mural goes up on Girard Avenue in La Jolla: Can you spot the Berlin connection?

‘Paintings are People Too' by Monique van Genderen was installed in January 2020 at 7661 Girard Ave. in La Jolla, as part of the ongoing 'Murals of La Jolla public-art series.

‘Paintings are People Too’ by Monique van Genderen was installed in January 2020 at 7661 Girard Ave. in La Jolla, as part of the ongoing ‘Murals of La Jolla public-art series.
(Photo by Elisabeth Frausto)

“Paintings are People Too” is the latest mural curated and installed by the Murals of La Jolla program. The large-scale, vibrant print of paintings floated against a photograph of a Berlin street hangs at 7661 Girard Ave., created by artist and UC San Diego professor Monique van Genderen while she was living in Germany.

“My mural is about empathy,” van Genderen told La Jolla Light. Having done many large-scale, public art pieces, she said “Paintings are People Too” is her least abstract-looking piece, while still carrying abstract thought. Van Genderen said she developed the idea for the mural while in Berlin, where she debuted a version that “was just the text and the paintings. The paintings were just floating up in the air, representing the idea of höhenkoller, (a German term) that translates to ‘high anxiety.’ ”

The paintings, laid over a photograph van Genderen took in Berlin, are “attached like balloons, in a way. They are stand-ins for people,” she explained.

Created originally on a different scale and at different times, the paintings used in the mural exist independently of the mural. “A lot of my work has to do with the value of painting, how long one looks at a painting, where they go after they’re exhibited,” van Genderen continued. “ ‘Paintings are People Too’ showcases empathy for people, but empathy for the paintings as well.”

Using visually complicated elements to develop her piece, van Genderen said the paintings are printed on reflective vinyl and added to the photograph, taking advantage of interesting technology. Exhibiting projects using reflective vinyl for some time, van Genderen said her work “is very much in the line of those artists who use reflective light and light activation, so the art happens experientially.” This, she said, aligns with the objectives of Murals of La Jolla, whose collection “provides a live experience for its viewers.”

“‘Paintings are People Too’ is connected to other murals in the Murals of La Jolla collection through a matrix that creates connections through the spaces as you’re walking around,” van Genderen continued. “This is a very Californian way to look at art and find meaning … internationally, this could become a sort of sister-city matrix with Berlin, which might also extend to future cities.”

Director of the Murals of La Jolla program, Lynda Forsha, said van Genderen’s expertise in printing and reflective vinyl sets her apart from others, and her research and access to materials adds to her innovation in the field.

“Paintings are People Too” is the 31st piece commissioned by Murals of La Jolla, which was founded by the La Jolla Community Foundation 10 years ago and is now a project of the Athenaeum Music and Arts Library. There are currently 15 murals on view throughout The Village, each displayed for two to four years on private property, and all privately funded.

“It’s a different model for public art,” Forsha explained. “The impact of the collection is in the murals placement. It’s about discovering them as you walk around.

“We commission two to three new murals per year, so there’s a sort of rhythm to how they’re changed out. Once an artist is selected, the commission process to pair the artist with a site begins. Once the artist knows the site, they can begin developing a proposal, which is then approved by the Murals of La Jolla committee and the property owner, and then we move on to fabrication: getting it printed and installed.”

As far as deciding where murals will be installed, Forsha said the committee identifys the best walls in The Village and gets excited about transforming leftover spaces and bringing art to these public spots.

Want to know more? Director of the Murals of La Jolla program, Lynda Forsha, hosts a walking tour of the Murals of La Jolla, the last Wednesday of every month. Space is limited; a spot may be reserved by calling the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, 1008 Wall St., La Jolla, at (858) 454-5872.