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Cow down


There was no typography involved, but there were a lot of different styles and schools of art. The mural was painted twenty years ago on the side of an utterly nondescript light-industrial building on East Madison Street in Seattle, the home of a locally owned icecream company called Fratelli’s. Its subject was cows, not unusual for an icecream manufacturer. But the cows that covered the side of the Fratelli’s building came in a collage of visual styles, each one reflecting the characteristics of a particular school of painting. There was the Cubist cow, the Impressionist cow, the Jackson Pollock cow. Looming behind them all was the outline of Mt. Rainier, the 14,000-foot volcano that dominates the horizon of Puget Sound. The forms interlocked and interacted in ironic and playful ways, all in the context of what, on the surface, appeared to be a pastoral scene. To walk or drive past this mural was to be reminded of how whimsically and creatively art can spring up.

Detail of cow mural

Fratelli’s went out of business years ago, and for quite some time the building has been awaiting demolition, to make way for some kind of redevelopment on the site. I’ve watched ivy grow over parts of the mural, and more recently large spray-painted graffiti tags appear on top of the lower cows. This past week, finally, the wreckers came, and the building was reduced to rubble.

Several years ago, when the building had already been abandoned for a while, I borrowed Eileen’s digital camera and took a bunch of pictures of the mural – close-ups of each cow, and each odd architectural feature (like the way the artist incorporated the protruding base of the concrete stairway into the mural), as well as some shots from across the street to capture the whole thing together.

Detail of cow mural

Detail of cow mural

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