The downtown mural of Thor Froslev was a humbling surprise — and a needed pick-me-up — for its subject.
Painted as part of the Downtown Squamish Business Improvement Association’s Squamish Mural Walk, an initiative spearheaded by executive director Kerry Neil, the mural was Froslev's first stop after getting out of Squamish Hospital, where he had spent the last month after a fall.
"I thought it was very well done. It was humbling," he told The Squamish Chief from his chair in his home above the Brackendale Art Gallery, where he is recovering and gaining back some of his signature pep.
The colours are "delicate," he added.
His wife Dorte Froslev had sent the artist a couple of pictures of him to work from.
"I'm really glad they chose that one," she said.
"The pictures had that kind of look in the eye — that visionary look in the eye."
The retired art teacher praised the piece for capturing Thor so well.
"I had no idea it was such a big project and big deal by a well-known artist and so — very cool,” she said.
The artist and the design
Internationally acclaimed Canadian muralist Kevin Ledo was in Squamish specifically to paint the Cleveland Avenue mural of Froslev.
"I have Thor as the main subject, but a huge portion of it is actually abstract work. And it's actually based off of one of my watercolour paintings. I really try to strive for a delicate colour palette — one that really kind of captures the mood and the feel. This one captured a retro vibe, which I think is appropriate for Thor and when he got started here in the 70s. The portrait of him, it's looking out and there are these shapes in the background, which captures his thoughts and creative process — or his vision, let's say."
The Montreal native said while he was painting the mural, locals stopped by and told stories about Froslev.
While Ledo has done historical portrait murals, such as civil rights activist Rosa Parks, which he painted in Detroit, and the nine-storey Montreal mural of the late Leonard Cohen, he said painting someone living is ideal.
"Whenever I can, I try to photograph my own subjects. So sometimes it's somebody who's really celebrated but also sometimes it's somebody who's just a local person who is either symbolically or personally important to one or the whole community."
Next, the artist is off to Fall River in Massachusetts, followed by a few murals in Montreal and then one in Cambodia.
Local muralist and musician Liesl Petersen volunteered for a few hours to help Ledo fill some big roller spaces.
"[I] had an opportunity to learn what a down-to-earth, humble and confident muralist he is," she told The Squamish Chief.
"The image of Thor is close to my heart because he was arguably the first great pioneer of art and music culture in our town. His vision and execution of the Brackendale Art Gallery is one of Squamish's greatest works of art. As an artist and a musician, I recognize that more art has happened in our town as a result of that man and his ability to bring people together to dream a magical place like that into existence. I feel deeply grateful that I get to participate in this magic regularly; in fact, Bluesberry Jam is playing there on July 9," she said.
Artist Alex Fowkes, creative director of the walk this year and last for the Downtown BIA was a fan of Ledo and says it was fellow Squamish artist and BIA member Andy Anissimoff who first suggested Froslev as the subject.
Fowkes knew of Froslev, but not his whole story. He and Ledo did their research on him, including watching the Vimeo documentary “Brackendale An Art Gallery in the Woods” about him. He was sold on the idea of featuring him in the mural.
"What better way to, like paint someone artistically that's involved in art in Squamish, and has been for 50 years," Fowkes said, just hours after having met with Froslev and Ledo to show him the mural.
"It was really kind of emotional at one point," he said.
"He asked me how it came about and I told him I'd watched the documentary, and I couldn't think of anyone better to be depicted in this way. And he had the biggest grin on his face. So it was so nice."
Fowkes said he is also a fan of how the painting turned out.
"I feel like I can see the BAG and Froslev's vision in that painting. Like I can see his work within his expressions, and it's kind of like a whole depiction of it. I can just feel it. I love it."