Redwood City Public Library Mural

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In June, 2006, I was commissioned to create a mural for a windowless room in the children’s section of the beautiful Redwood City Public Library. (I was born in Redwood City, incidentally.) My idea was to work with a carpenter, Stuart Habley, to recreate window frames to match the existing architecture, and to then paint “Literary Landscapes” outside the windows, landscapes that a reader might imagine when reading a novel. The first was going to be based on the work of local author, John Steinbeck. But political events changed my idea…


In March, 2006, we went to Lebanon to go skiing .
For years, I had associated the name “Beirut” with “hostage situation”. But that was the past, and the Beirut of 2006 was beautiful and stylish. It had emerged from so many years of civil war, and was thriving. Every evening, the cafes and bars were full of music and chatter in a mixture of French and Arabic. Women were dressed so fashionably, not an abaya in sight, and I felt ashamed of my ski jacket. This cosmopolitan city by the sea seemed a bit like a more sophisticated version of San Francisco, though many buildings still bore the scars and bullet holes. Large parts of the city were being reconstructed. It felt to me like a forward thinking, open and modern city with a great buzz.

 

When I about to begin the work, mid-summer of 2006, Lebanon quite literally exploded again. Israel bombed the Beirut airport, and the city that had risen from its ashes after so many years of civil war was burning again. In the States, many people when they hear news of the Middle East think, “Here we go again… terrorists, desert, and crazy Muslim extremists”.

I decided to use this opportunity to tell a different story, and I hope shed a positive light by illustrating a marvellous piece of Arabic literature, the “1001 Arabian Nights”. I’ve tried to illustrate bits of the stories of Aladdin, Sinbad, Ali Baba, and the bird who spoke the truth, with a smattering of camels and Arabic architecture to set the scene.

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