Phoenix artist Carrie Marill walked into the desert several months ago, planning to paint the first bird that popped into her view. “It was a gregarious, chatty cactus wren,” Marill says. And now, its likeness sits at the center of one of Marill’s newest works of art.
It’s a 54-foot-long mural inside the Palomino Library, one of several Scottsdale Public Library branches. The mural features not only the desert bird, but also mountains made of Marill’s colorful, geometric designs.
Scottsdale Public Art commissioned the mural for $3,000 back in 2016, says Kevin Vaughan-Brubaker, public art manager with Scottsdale Arts. Scottsdale Arts is a nonprofit started in 1987, which oversees Scottsdale Public Art, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, and Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts.
Marill started the mural on Monday, June 5, and finished on Sunday, June 11. She painted every day, from about 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., which means it took more than 40 hours to complete. For now, she's calling it Cactus Wren.
The mural includes mountains made with two different designs.
One includes 10-by-10-inch triangles. They’re painted with 20 different colors, including some with names such as Lime Rickey, Celestial, and Anchors Away.
The other design features lines that look like arrows pointing in various directions, which resemble bird tracks. “It’s a nod to the landscape of the surrounding area,” Marill says.
The designs aren’t unique to this mural, Marill says.
For the past year, Marill says, she’s been creating these patterns based on tantric meditative techniques. Both were featured in her work for the recent “Tell Me Why” exhibition at Lisa Sette Gallery. For that show, Marill coupled one small painting with each design with a small brass bowl filled with sage, which was placed on a small shelf just below eye level.
Marill has painted several murals in metro Phoenix, including her giant swirl of color blocks called For the Love of Color, which graces a south-facing wall at ASU Art Museum’s Project Space in Roosevelt Row. That’s where Marill and her husband, fellow artist Matthew Moore, purchased the building in 2011, which became the Combine Studios used for ASU Art Museum’s international artist residency program. Recently they sold the building, and Marill moved into a new studio space.
Before development forced Roosevelt Growhouse to relocate from Sixth Street to the former Knipe House property, the Roosevelt GROWop Boutique featured a Marill mural comprising dark green silhouettes of garden tools and other objects. Her mural paying homage to street artist Margaret Kilgallen is located on the southeast corner of Roosevelt and Second streets.
Her larger body of work includes varied imagery, from houseplants to kinetic sculpture inspired by renowned artist Alexander Calder. Birds are a favorite subject because of the patterns of their feathers, Marill says. Recently, Marill launched a line of fashion accessories called PunkWasp, starting with necklaces and bandannas.
“Sometimes people can’t see the bridge between my bodies of work,” Marill says. “It’s all about the pattern.”
Marill got her latest mural commission last fall, after Scottsdale Public Art decided the library needed a work of public art, Vaughan-Brubaker says. That happened, he says, after someone from the City’s parks and recreation department contacted Donna Isaac, director for Scottsdale Public Art, and noted that Palomino was the only Scottsdale Public Library branch without a work of public art.
Scottsdale Civic Center Library, for example, has a giant plume-style pen sculpture near its entrance. It’s also home to a gallery space, where the current “Bird Cloud Island” exhibition features Phoenix artist Koryn Woodward Wasson’s take on a Midcentury Modern hotel.
“We already had a pool of mural artists put together,” Vaughan-Brubaker says. “So we did a selection panel, and they pitched Carrie.” The panel included community members and library staff, as well as artist Christopher Jagmin, Vaughan-Brubaker says.
Scottsdale Public Art has previously commissioned several murals, including one painted by JB Snyder at the Scottsdale Quarter in June 2016. For Canal Convergence 2017, it selected Isaac Caruso and Ashley Macias to paint murals along a portion of the Arizona Canal at the Scottsdale Waterfront.
Scottsdale Public Art officials reached out to Marill, who submitted a proposal with her design. But work didn’t start right way, because an adjacent school, Desert Mountain High School, also uses the library. And they wanted to wait until school was out, so the work wouldn’t disrupt the students.
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Marill, a self-described bibliophile, says she’s excited to be working in a library. She’s even taken notice of the types of books shelved near the left portion of the wall. That’s where Marill started work on a section of arrow-type designs Saturday morning. Some mirror her own personal interests, from comic books to meditative practice.
She’s also glad that several of the young girls who visited the library while she was painting circled round to watch her work, and ask questions. “It’s important that they see someone working and making art, and that they know they can do it.”
But there’s another message Marill hopes they see in her work. “The arrows point in all directions,” she says. “You can go any direction you want with your life.”