Of the dozens of paper prints littering the floor of the Fine Arts Building’s fourth-floor hallway, Reinaldo Gil Zambrano wants one that isn’t there.
“Do we have any skulls?” he asked art professor Elizabeth Dove, who obliges a few minutes later, bringing two prints of an impala skull.
Those, Gil sticks to the landing’s white painted brick wall with a brush and paste, another piece in a large-scale mural being put up in the Fine Arts Building.
The mural is part of the art school’s contribution to the Festival of Remembrance, for which the school usually screen prints T-shirts.
Due to the event’s shapeshifting nature this year, Dove wasn’t sure that her screen printing class would be able to do T-shirt designs, but knew she wanted them to participate in some way.
She thought of Gil, whom she and fellow professor Jason Clark met at the Rocky Mountain Printmakers’ Association last spring. Gil, a printmaker and art instructor at Eastern Washington University and Gonzaga, put up two murals with students during the RMPA meeting.
“I got permission from my faculty to deface a wall,” Dove laughed. “Let’s invite Reinaldo, we can make a mural.”
To go along with the Festival of Remembrance’s expanded themes, Dove gave her students a wider space to work in, having them choose between creating prints inspired by manmade objects or the natural world, to be combined into one mural.
“I wanted there to be this tension between two opposites — so life and death was always going to be a part of this,” Dove said.
That shows itself in the mural with that impala skull laid over the top of Greek columns, which in turn sprouted from a nymph-like tree woman.
There were Legos, skyscrapers, a great-horned owl and a Winnebago.
Good luck making something cohesive out of that, but Gil had no problem, as he stood on the ladder, directing Clark to grab the next piece he wanted and pasting it up, one after another, only occasionally stepping back to survey his progress.
“It works pretty fast, once you get it started,” Gil said.
A gangly, hairy fly with a gas mask loomed over one corner, a television set in the other.
The landing, which curls off the stairway toward the elevator doors, took a new shape, its dry white brick wall alive with images, although the prints were monochromatic black and white as well. Gil called it "dead space" when he first arrived, Dove said.
In the print room around the corner, Dove talked to her class, who had spent the last couple of weeks completing prints, so they were ready to hang in the mural during Gil’s two-day visit.
She told them not every print would make it into the mural, but to not be shy about suggesting placement, or stepping in themselves to paste their image into the collage. It should be an inclusive process.
“We’re hoping to use as many as we can,” Gil said, surveying the growing pile of prints next to his ladder. He estimated there were around 40 or so prints.
“It’s just a matter of coming up with a solution.”
Dove and Clark’s students will also paste their prints onto large luan plywood discs that have handles stapled into the back, to carry in the Festival procession next Friday. They have the option of decorating plastic beaked plague doctor masks with their print scraps, too.
But Thursday, they stopped in the hallway to watch Gil work, stepping in occasionally to learn the process of pasting prints onto the wall, with Gil’s teaching.
“That’s what my projects have been based on — bringing people together and doing these large projects,” Gil said. “The making process has the power to unify people.”