EUGENE, Ore. -- The artist behind a new mural in Downtown Eugene is speaking out about what the work depicts.
Rodolfo RedStone Serna lives in Portland and has created murals for over a decade. Recently, he has been requested to create art outside of Portland, which is how his latest mural near West Park Street in Eugene was brought to life.
After multiple Zoom meetings and conversations with the city of Eugene, Lane Arts Council and community members, permission was granted for Serna to paint the mural.
Several factors interrupted the creation process, such as the rain, wildfires and also getting the green light from various different individuals.
“We were also waiting for permission from two people in the community that we wanted to memorialize," Serna said. "One of them was Charlie. We did get a call back from the mother and from the brother -- we got full support. The other person we didn't get a response in time from, so I did not put them in there. They were going to go on the other side, but they didn't get included because we were not able to get permission from the family."
Serna described the mural as “healing work" and a way to showcase the diversity of cultures.
“We're going to give the Latinx community in this area access to something that they ordinarily don't have,” Serna said. "I was very honored and very happy to be a part of that to facilitate that process. It felt like what I was hearing was Eugene saying that we're ready to be more tolerant, and we're ready to be more inclusive. I was like, wow. Here I get to be part of this. So what happened was a beautiful thing.”
He said that the reference of Charlies Landeros was "not included to trigger trauma in the EPD and their circles of support."
One of the images sparking the most conversation is of a police officer, next to what many believe to be a pig. However, Serna clears up that there is no pig anywhere in the design. He said that to the left of the officer is a cala lily flower. To the right of the officer is a cactus.
Serna also says that the officer is shown reaching up to pull an ear of corn.
“From my country corn is so important,” Serna said. “It ties to one of our creation stories and is very important. The people are coming out of the corn, and the corn is different colors representing the variety of Latin culture. That officer pulling down at the corn is more of that systematic and the things that are in place against immigrants, the things that are against like low-income folks and those barriers. The officer was meant to be ambiguous.”
The Lane Arts Council also weighed in.
“The process in creating the mural was community-driven,” a spokesperson with the Lane Arts Council said. “The artist, Rodolfo RedStone Serna, worked with a committee of Indigenous and Latin American community members from different Latin American countries to inform the design of the mural. The artist shared that these community sessions were powerful as people shared their stories and message. Serna wove together elements of the narratives he heard from Latinx community members participating in a series of community engagement sessions. Community members were also invited to help paint the mural.”
Serna said the mural brings pieces of cultural experiences and stories to life.
“We can have a broader discussion, and I think that's what art is supposed to do,” Serna said. “It’s bringing up these things that are very sensitive for folks. But truth be told, I feel very confident that what we did was a positive thing and that what we did helped empower a community that didn't feel empowered before and that didn't feel like they had a voice before. So, pat on the back to Eugene for that.”
Serna said he hopes a forum can be created to bring communities, agencies and organizations together to continue to discuss important conversations that need to be had.
"Each element is a symbol, including a conch shell with music pouring out of it to celebrate the Afro Latinx cultures, patterns from the baskets used by the indigenous people of the region, a Cala lily and a Camas to represent the beauty of local and Latinx indigenous peoples, and an eagle to represent power," the Lane Arts Council said. "Part of the mural’s imagery includes an abstract image of a protester in the top left corner, which references Charlie Landeros. This work of art, like many, serves to create space for expression and reflection. The overall piece represents a whole, complex narrative, and includes many stories and experiences from the past to present moment."