March is for the murals in Marathon.
Hot on the heels of Wyland’s restoration of Whaling Wall #87 on March 2, another of Marathon’s most famous paintings received a complete overhaul throughout the month.
The newly completed scene on the east wall of the Marathon Veterinary Hospital building is a masterpiece of collaboration between 2002 MHS graduate Yoslan O’Farrill and Stanley Switlik’s art teacher Shannon Paul Willy.
O’Farrill is the artist behind the original mural painted over 20 years ago, and he has returned to replace and retouch the artwork twice in the decades since. But when necessary chipping repairs carved huge nicks into his latest version of the mural, he was more than happy to start from scratch.
“(The old mural) was a collage…just a bunch of stuff thrown all over the place,” O’Farrill said. “Color matching is a lot harder to do, and I know what I went through when I fixed the mural after Irma. So the idea was to show off some skills on that wall. I thought, let’s do it as a community project and paint it on a wall instead.
When Wiley expressed interest in helping with mural repairs, O’Farrill was more than happy to cooperate. While O’Farrill took care of the main Christ of the Abyss scene and larger animals like hammerhead shark and mural barracuda, Wiley populated the waterscape with highly detailed renderings of Keys reef species. .
“Once I found out he was a teacher here, I thought, ‘Man, how fitting. You’re gonna be the coolest guy in town for the next few years,” O’Farrill said. “All the kids come here and see him paint, and everyone’s always yelling, ‘Wiley!’ Once I saw him start working, I just pulled back and said, “Do your thing.” Do yours as much as mine.
“He’s an inspiration to me right now. These kids he’s teaching are going to believe they can become artists because their teacher is here to do it.
“We immediately connected as artists and painted together; we developed a wonderful friendship,” Wiley said. “I was thrilled to have the opportunity to ‘paint’ with someone so knowledgeable, experienced and enthusiastic.”
As an in-demand artist with over 200 murals in his portfolio, including around half a dozen in Marathon, O’Farrill can easily choose his projects, but a love of where he grew up has him. pushed to donate his skills – and take a vacation from his new home base of Naples – to complete the wall. “I’m working with a publisher and they wanted to charge over $80,000 for the project,” he said. “I told them, ‘This is my hometown. It will not arrive.'”
O’Farrill’s efforts were made possible by paint donations from Sherwin Williams and The Home Depot, equipment donated by Sunbelt Rentals, locals willing to provide free accommodation to support the four-man team of the project and, most importantly, a commitment from the owner of the building, Dr. Doug Mader. After purchasing the building in 2011, Mader did “detective work” to find O’Farrill when the original artwork needed repairs, and has honored the artist’s commitment to the mural ever since. .
“When we bought the building and redesigned it, I promised the city when they gave us the permit that we would always have a mural here,” Mader said. “I own the building, but I no longer own the business, and the new ones didn’t want to replace the wall. But this wall was a historical landmark. (O’Farrill) said, ‘You pay for my supplies, and I’ll come and paint the mural again.’ »
“Dr. Mader is the man who makes this possible,” O’Farrill said. “Without him, I could never have achieved this.”
Although Marathon locals might wonder why Christ of the Abyss, a famous Key Largo dive site, is the subject of a mural more than 50 miles to the south, the scene’s message, rather than its content, was O’Farrill’s primary concern as he seeks to leave. his mark on the city once again.
“His gesture means everyone is welcome, and it also protects us,” he said. “For me, this is a sign of hope. When they see it, they’ll know these guys care about the reefs. There are places in the world I went to 10 years ago that don’t even exist anymore because of people abusing them.
Marathon-based production company Innastate Studios will be tasked with pushing the artists’ message forward as they seek to produce a documentary about the process and purpose of the mural.
While O’Farrill and Wiley’s collaboration is a beautiful depiction of authentic reef life, they added a little twist for fun.
“Find SpongeBob and his house, take a picture and tag me @artist_ofarrill on Instagram.”