May 19, 2019 — Much like beauty, art is in the eye of the beholder. This was never truer than when the Florence Public Art Committee and the Florence City Council approved the installation of what became a controversial mural on the Central Lincoln Public Utilities Building in April.
The debate engendered by the selection of the design submitted and awarded to Marino-Heidel Studios was at times contentious, with many area residents turning out at public meetings to voice their opinion on the subjects chosen for the work, as well as the colors, style and appearance of the final design.
The Marino-Heidel work, entitled “Stitching Time, Weaving Cultures,” includes iconic imagery from the Siuslaw region presented in a colorful, modern style.
The piece was created primarily by Angelina Marino, who has designed and installed dozens of murals around the country over the last 20 years. Her work is characterized as dynamic, vibrant and engaging, with serious thought given to the culture and history of the location where the mural will be placed.
For critics of the mural, the process of selecting the winning design had already passed the point where public input on the selection of the art could be taken into account by the art committee or the city council at the April 1 Florence City Council meeting.
For those in support of Marino’s design, the installation is the positive end result of a three-year effort to bring a large, modern art piece to the City of Florence.
The final steps in the journey of the mural started this week as the creative force behind the design, Marino and her partner, Joel Heidel, arrived in Florence to begin the installation.
The couple has been at the PUD building during the week, working in the rain and the cold, sketching the major elements of the work onto the recently white-washed wall. A public paint day on Friday included community members in the beginning of the mural.
The pair spoke about the creative process and the timeline for the installation of the mural.
Marino and Heidel have each been artists for much of their lives and have worked together on many different types of sculpture and mural pieces over the years.
“We both have been doing art forever. I started in theater and music at a very young age and switched to visual art in my twenties,” Marino said.
The couple has developed a method of sharing the ideas that inspire them and incorporating those thoughts into the final submission. The process begins with the team familiarizing itself with the location of the installation and deciding on the best way to translate that basic understanding into a visual framework, the couple said.
“It’s hard to claim 100 percent ownership of anything either of us comes up with, because we have been exchanging ideas and concepts for so long, even on work we are doing independently,” Marino said. “We work together, we live with the work and we have similar ways of thinking about art, but we approach it from different points of view.”
Heidel is primarily a sculptor but grew up in a household that was focused on art and the artistic process. His familiarity with art of many different types and genres has prepped him for the work he now does with Marino.
“My parents were both artists and my father was the head of the Art Department at Portland State and chairman of the department until 1980, so I grew up with art and artists all around me,” said Heidel, who is also a trained welder. “I took that skill and what I know from growing up and working with Angelina and use it to create metal sculptures.”
The couple feel that Heidel’s expertise in working with metal brings a slightly different sense to the work produced by their studio. Heidel has studied and worked extensively in other mediums, including glass, enamel and metal. He also visited museums and art institutes across Europe while growing up.
“I met Angelina and we did a collaborative sculpture together. Beyond that, Angelina was a painter but she had already started doing murals — so I became the assistant muralist. I do have some sensibility for things, but Angelina is the one who actually creates the murals,” Heidel said.
Marino and Heidel will be staying in Florence during the installation of the mural. They said the designs created for any client starts with knowing the community.
“All of the work we do, whether it is public project or a private commission, comes from things that we believe are associated with the community or the client that we are working with,” Marino said. “A lot of times when you are talking to a client or a community, the past, present and the future are the areas they want to connect with, which is what I try to bring to the work.”
The controversy surrounding the selection and funding for the Marino-Heidel mural has not been a problem for the artists. The time in Florence has been an opportunity to consider a change in location for themselves and the business they own and operate. In fact, the couple has enjoyed their stay so much that they have looked at a property for sale in Florence with a shop and an RV parking area as a possible future home.
“Everybody, every person, every place we go and everyone we have talked with has been fabulous. We love everything about this area, and it’s been a really great experience,” Marino said. “This is so cool for us because I have always wanted to spend time in Florence. I used to drive through as a kid, and I love this area — and now here we are. Plus, I am super pleased that out of 124 submissions, we were chosen. Thank you City of Florence!”