WILMORE — The huge wall at the semi-hidden Drake Chavez Greenbelt Park was a blank canvas that artist David Gilmore turned into a coloring book.
Gilmore’s addition to the greenbelt is a mammoth mural titled “A Place Together,” and it’s as bold as it is colorful. At its tallest point, the painted wall is 130-by-13 feet.
“It’s sort of like a giant coloring book, which I thought might be impacting when seen from a distance or would have some sort of feeling from childhood,” Gilmore said.
Located in the Wilmore neighborhood on Long Beach’s westside, the greenspace, which includes soccer fields, is adjacent to the 710 Freeway, the Los Angeles River bike path, and a neighboring ceramics business.
Gilmore, a 17-year Long Beach resident who identifies as gay, was chosen to create the mural after submitting designs last year during an open-artist call from the Arts Council for Long Beach.
The cement was the perfect canvas for Gilmore to use his “paint-on-anything” approach.
The mural’s theme is inclusion, and it celebrates Long Beach’s diversity, Gilmore says.
It begins with four multi-cultural, human faces that are vague in age, gender, and race. As the faces exhale, they turn into representations of land, air and sea. The swirls are interrupted by two sets of huge, rainbow-colored eyes.
In an interview with Q Voice News, Gilmore, 49, talks about the those eyes, doodles, and painting one of Beyoncé’s dancers white.
Here are some excerpts.
“Since the mural is kind of long and sprawling, I wanted it to have a long story and narrative,” Gilmore says. “If it isn’t completely obvious what it is, that’s fine. If it’s just something colorful and bold, that’d be great, too.
“Hopefully anyone who looks at this would feel represented or acknowledged by one or a number of the faces.”
Rainbow-colored queer eyes
“It’s open to any interpretation,” Gilmore says of the eyes, “but to me, as a gay man, there’s something about that that has a queer presence to it.”
Inclusive, queer art
“I like to think that anything that I do would have a voice of inclusion in it. Hopefully there’s a sense of celebration in my work,” Gilmore says. “There are a lot of unleashed colors so hopefully, inherently, that has a queer sort of resonance to it. I don’t make necessarily overt work. It’s definitely a gay aesthetic, but hopefully that isn’t excluding anyone.”
“I paint on everything, that’s kind of my motto,” Gilmore says. “I paint on surfboards, handbags, walls, and I also paint on bodies. The first body painting I ever did was 22 years ago on my partner. Back then, I didn’t know what to use so I used eyeliner, eyeshadow, and grease paint.”
Finding his voice
“It was through body painting that I found my voice again as an artist,” Gilmore says. “I would do paintings based on my body paintings, and then I’d do body paintings based on those paintings. It was this cycle of learning what I wanted to say. It was definitely a rebirth of what art meant to me.”
At the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards, Gilmore painted the body of one of Beyoncé’s backup dancers, who starts the performance sitting in her lap, all white.
“It took a solid day to get this dancer painted solid white because that’s one of the harder things in body paint, to get someone solid white,” Gilmore says.
“I’ve always painted since I was a little kid,” Gilmore says. “I’m a chronic doodler. I’ve always been that way. If there’s a piece of paper around me or something to scribble or doodle on, I will. A lot of bigger paintings have come from those.
“This (mural) came from little, tiny doodles that I’d do at the coffee or kitchen table,” Gilmore says. “I’m just a great, big doodler.”