VAIL — Earlier this summer, the town of Vail’s Art in Public Places invited four local artists to paint large murals on the exterior of the skatepark in Lionshead. Not only did this public art project enhance the skatepark’s appearance, it provided a canvas for professional artists to showcase the evolution of street art.
The skatepark is scheduled to be dismantled on Sept. 30, but in the meantime, Art in Public Places is inviting the public to enjoy the paintings before the artwork is placed in storage for the winter.
The four local artists who created the murals were Michael Friedberg, Prent Milhoan, William Thompson and Shen. While the murals vary in subject matter, they have a symbiotic compatibility in style. Two of the murals celebrate the sport of skateboarding, while the other two celebrate the edgy style of street art.
Shen’s vibrant aerosol mural captures a frontside skater in midair. She painted the work before crowds of onlookers at the Vail Arts Festival in late June in Lionshead. A new resident to the Vail Valley, Shen is a self-taught artist in pop-graffiti realism. Tagged “ShenShen210” in the mid-’80s, she was the first female graffiti artist in the San Francisco Bay area when the graffiti art movement was just beginning on the West Coast.
A legend in the graffiti art community, her works have been exhibited in both museums and galleries nationwide.
Michael Friedberg was inspired to create a painting to celebrate art legend Jackson Pollack. Pollack, a leading figure in the abstract expressionist movement, was known for his unorthodox technique of drip painting.
Friedberg wanted to pay tribute to the artist by creating a street-art-style stencil of Pollack in his iconic gesture of dripping paint above his canvases. Friedberg then invited volunteer participants during the Vail Arts Festival to drip paint in a similar manner on the mural to complete the work.
Friedberg wanted his mural to represent the similar obstacles that both street artists and the abstract expressionists experienced in regards to acceptance in the art world.
Vail native Prent Milhoan was inspired by the raw beauty of trains. Milhoan’s painting captures the aged surface and identifying marks of the train car. Look carefully and you will see the multiple layers of paint, decay, rivets and even rust that the artist was able to create for his mural.
Milhoan comes from a family of artists. His father, Randy, has been very active in Vail’s art community and a participant in several of Vail’s public art projects. One may see both son and father’s public art at the Lionshead parking center. Randy’s mural “Man and his Symbols” has been in the structure since 1994 and was repainted in 2006.
Inspired by the evolution of skateboarding, Vail native William Thompson portrays a Dogtown skater catching an asphalt wave. The swell of the wave in his painting morphs from an iconic ocean wave to the stylized asphalt wave symbolizing the evolution of the sport. His work also pays tribute to the mountain range that surrounded him while he enjoyed skating at the Vail skatepark while growing up in the Valley.
Thompson is now a junior at the University of Colorado in Boulder.