Seahorses and sea turtles float through the sky, gazing at people below, playing checkers and poker. A man plays saxophone on stage while fish and crabs fly around him and the audience listens. Another stands opposite him, only white but for a pair of bright yellow pants, a trumpet in his hands. He plays for the audience and the soaring sea creatures surrounding him.
These are the beginnings—and the end—of local artist Pat Siler’s Pine Street Plaza Mural, which was featured Monday in the Pullman ArtWalk.
About 30 people gathered in Pine Street Plaza between Taco Del Mar and Thomas Hammer, where the mural is located, to meet Siler and discuss his art and the new addition to the mural. Siler began working on the final section of the mural earlier this month.
“He has done quite a bit for the arts,” said Anna-Maria Shannon, the associate director of the Museum of Art/WSU and chair for the Pullman ArtWalk. “Not just the (Pullman) art community but the arts in general. This project has been a labor of love.”
Siler has been working on the mural since 2009, when he completed the first part, “Skyhorses and the Finer Points of Solitaire & Checkers.”
To fund the mural, Siler sold some of his sketches and drawings to the Museum of Art/WSU, receiving about $4,000 for supplies. He spends about six hours a day sketching and painting, hoping to complete the mural by the end of the summer.
Siler earned his bachelor’s degree in art studies from WSU in ’61. He then earned a master’s in painting from the University of California, Berkeley in ’63.
Siler returned to Pullman after about 10 years taking part-time jobs in the Bay Area, becoming a ceramics professor at his alma mater.
Siler said his work draws from German Expressionism, comics of the 30’s and 40’s and traditional Japanese and Chinese brushstrokes. He said he finds disparity in objects and puts them together.
“You get this interesting kind of tension between what you’ve been taught is reality, and something else.” Siler said. “It appeals to me.”
Siler’s work has been featured in museums across the country, including the American Craft Museum in New York City, the Seattle Art Museum and the Smithsonian. He has also had work featured in Europe, Japan and Korea.
His pieces will also be featured through Friday at the Museum of Art/WSU.
Siler’s wife, Elizabeth, said she wishes there was more art in Pullman, and that she appreciates her husband’s work because the community can watch and be involved in the creation.
“I’d like to see the Pullman community invested in opportunities to engage in public art,” Elizabeth, an ESL specialist at WSU, said. “I also like the fact that it’s publicly done art. People have the chance to come by and see it.”
Siler said about four or five people come by every day to chat with him and ask questions about the mural.
“Working before the public has been very gratifying for me,” he said.
For a full schedule of the Pullman ArtWalk, check out the Pullman Chamber of Commerce’s website. The event continues through Saturday.