Imagine That! Fun Facts About Saya Woolfalk's Six Wall Mural

Imagine That! Fun Facts About Saya Woolfalk’s Six Wall Mural

Artist Saya Woolfalk discussing her mural project at the Sugar Hill Children's Museum. Photo by Michael Palma Mir

“The Pollen Catchers' Color Mixing Machine,” a site-specific mural created by Saya Woolfalk, fills The Main Gallery of The Living Room.  Inspired by a collaboration with her young daughter, Aya Woolfalk Mitchell, the commissioned project fills six gallery walls with a mysterious and enthralling pictorial narrative inspired by fables and folk tales, and the symbols they engender. We chatted with Woolfalk and discovered how a young girl, Egyptian art and 300 colors helped create this astounding mural. Imagine that!

A 4-year-old helped lead the way

“This project went through different iterations as I tried to decide what type of work would work best in the museum. At one point I went upstate to the Catskills where my daughter was attending summer camp. I noticed how amazing my daughter’s drawings were and that sparked my inspiration. Even as a four-year-old she was making incredibly interesting abstract drawings that looked like faces, monsters, creatures and sea organisms. I wanted her to be my collaborator because of the confidence it brings to a child to know something that starts really small on a kitchen table, drawing with mom and dad, can become mural sized drawings. She was very shy at the opening reception but she now calls herself an artist.”

It takes a village to make a mural

  Storyteller April Armstrong performing in the Living Room Photo by Michael Palma Mir

Storyteller April Armstrong performing in the Living Room Photo by Michael Palma Mir

“The mural fills six walls in the 3,000 square foot Main Gallery. So I needed help in completing the project. Although my daughter was too young to physically be involved in painting the mural, I did work with about 15 high school and college students and recent grads, who came to the Museum through a wonderful organization called Cre8tive YouTH*nk, and from Fordham University. They helped paint the mural and it created a mentor/mentee relationship. We used a projector to enlarge the image and then did line drawings on the wall. I was happy to see that the students had a real facility for making art.”

Color, color and more color

  Face-painting inspired by The Pollen Catchers. Photo by Michael Palma Mir

Face-painting inspired by The Pollen Catchers. Photo by Michael Palma Mir

“There were probably 300 colors used to paint the mural. We started with five or six and used those to create other colors by mixing them together. We mixed the yellow, blue, white and a little bit of black to create the more neutral tones and gradations. It wasn’t scientific because we did it very organically.”

The concept was inspired by Egyptian art

  Egyptian tomb wall-painting. Procession of figures with offerings; part of a wall-painting from the tenth tomb at Gourna, Thebes. Made during an expedition to Egypt organised by Robert Hay between 1826 and 1838. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Egyptian tomb wall-painting. Procession of figures with offerings; part of a wall-painting from the tenth tomb at Gourna, Thebes. Made during an expedition to Egypt organised by Robert Hay between 1826 and 1838. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“’The Pollen Catchers' Color Mixing Machine’ is a new story I am developing with a series of animations to accompany the murals. They originated because I was interested in the watercolor facsimiles of Egyptian tomb paintings at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. I loved the idea that these illustrators gave us access to these fantastic and private spaces that are unknown and unnamed. I am still working on the storyline but over the next few years it will really blossom.”