The Alexander Lofts Mural is a landmark artwork in downtown West Palm Beach. It was quite a shock when artist Tristan Eaton’s largest mural in North America on the Alexander Lofts 6 story building collapsed in a rain of bricks and rubble in March.
“Holy cow!” Eaton yelled when a friend called to tell him of the disaster. First Eaton wanted to know whether anyone was hurt when the bricks came slamming down into an office building below. Yes, four people did suffer minor injuries. It was soon determined that the original brick wall on the 1926 building collapsed due to rusted iron rods attaching it to the building.
The Alexander Lofts Mural had been wildly popular, and recognized as an inspiration for the mural mania in West Palm Beach and the subsequent CANVAS project that placed dozens of murals all over the city. So there was no question the buildings owners would have it redone.
“We’re going to repair the art and do anything it takes to make it beautiful again,” Eaton said prior to the repair work.
He had initially spent 15 days and used 600 cans of spray paint to create the original Alexander Lofts Mural which is a homage to Alexander Graham Bell as the building had been home to Bell Telephone headquarters. The mural was named “The Spirit of Communication.”
So a few weeks ago Tristan Eaton returned to West Palm to create a new mural on the wall with a whole new design. This time, it took Eaton and only one assistant 6 days and 200 cans to paint.
“At first it was kind of a shock to see half my mural fall off a building,” said Eaton. “That’s never happened, but all’s well that ends well. So it’s nice to get another chance to paint such a big wall.”
Eaton’s multi-layered, collage like approach to portraiture allowed him to create a new piece that again combines elements of hyper-realism, extreme graphic design, abstract patterns from Bell’s early American era, historic Southern Bell branding imprints and logos, and more, with several women on the phone, old fashioned handsets, patterns and logos laid over the large head of Bell himself.
“Alexander Graham Bell revolutionized how we communicate when he invented the Harmonic Telegraph in 1874, thus leading to the modern-day telephone and changing the world forever,” said Eaton. “For me, art has always been about communication. Art is a more emotional and visual form of communication, but it has the power to connect us just the same. Therefore, being asked to create a mural to celebrate Bell’s life on the former West Palm Beach Southern Bell headquarters, I jumped at the chance and gladly accepted this honor. This method of portrait storytelling is fitting for someone with a life as grand and powerful as Alexander Graham Bell’s. Within this mural I have sewn together many images both relevant to Bell and the specific location of the mural itself.”
Eaton, whose work has been exhibited in art galleries around the world, began working as a teenager freelance artist in Detroit and later attended the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. Eaton soon found himself working for mammoth toy company Fisher-Price, where he designed his first toy at age 18. He eventually designed such toys as Action Heroes and a line of fantasy toys. He then founded Thunderdog Studios, a design firm that worked on a variety of projects for companies such as Disney and Nike.
While walking through a Brooklyn neighborhood, Eaton came across an apartment building with a blank wall that looked like it needed a mural on it and he had the idea for the image. He called the property owner and requested permission to paint, and the resulting modern mural, “4 Horse Women of the Apocalypse,” started Eaton on a journey that would take him to new heights – literally as he was working so large.
Eaton believes that public art should be both inspirational and transformational. One of his early projects was painting the Statue of Liberty mural on the corner of Mulberry and Canal Street in NYC, an iconic mural that gained the art world’s attention. Eaton’s reputation as a mural artist in NYC led developer Cummings, who saw the blank wall on what would become Alexander Lofts, to contact Eaton for the first mural.
Eaton sketched the first image he had in his head by hand and then modified it digitally. His initial plan was to project the image onto the building at night and paint the outlines from there, but the flooding city lights kept the area too bright. Eaton and his team had to reconfigure their idea and scale light poles, covering them with cardboard to get the image to project onto the wall. Then, they outlined the image in grey spray paint. Eaton and his team worked non-stop, pulling all nighters to get the outline finished. Then they started the fill-in process – a daunting task that took almost 2 full weeks of 12-hour days in hot sun and knock you off your feet winds.
“The art we put on that wall became the centerpiece of the art that is being put up around West Palm Beach. It’s something we’re proud of,” said Chris Keefer, director of marketing for RAM Realty Services, which commissioned the Alexander Lofts Mural.
Eaton said none of the countless murals he has all over the world have been damaged as badly as “Spirit of Communication.” But part of his job as an artist is to continually touch up his work when it gets damaged or defaced. He and RAM Realty had already worked out a deal for him to touch up the painting should it be damaged.
“I have murals all over the world that get defaced all the time and I touch up all of them,” he said. “When you have art out in the open, chaos comes with the territory.”
“That just means I get to spend another week in sunny West Palm Beach to fix it,” he said before he embarked on the massive redo.
Now that the Alexander Lofts Mural is finished, he is off to Europe.
“Super excited to announce that I’ll be traveling through Europe for the next 6 weeks with two other artists painting some murals and releasing some very special goodies from myself and Montana Cans! “ he said on his Facebook page, “Keep an eye on my Instagram account (#europeanspraycation) for info on where I’ll be and what’s coming out. So excited – Paris, Berlin, Dresden, Denmark, Austria, Venice, Marseille.”
The Alexander Lofts Mural by Tristan Eaton is an Iconic Landmark in Downtown West Palm Beach. Read the Story of the Mural, One of largest in North America.
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