Pilsen artist Juan De La Mora describes the mural that he recently painted inside a pedestrian tunnel in Glen Ellyn as “really an homage to the trees.”
Maple, apple, oak, ash and honey locust trees are shown in images that consume the tube-like space, which is 12 feet in diameter and stretches more than 90 feet beneath railroad tracks in a residential area of the west suburb.
The colors and foliage differ from one side of the tunnel to the other in an effort to reflect the four seasons.
One end includes flowery buds on branches — a nod to spring. Next to those are trees bearing the thick, green leaves of summer. There are also yellows and oranges of fall and the barren branches of winter.
The color of the sky also changes.
“In spring, it’s a lighter blue,” says De La Mora, 44, who had two assistants help with the mural, Carla Alvarado and Marissa Mora. “It’s darker as it gets toward the winter.”
The project was initiated by the College of DuPage as part of an effort by the school to create and celebrate public art across DuPage County. The idea was to reflect in some way Glen Ellyn and “its history or environment.”
De La Mora did some research and found that Glen Ellyn has long been associated with trees.
“I was looking to celebrate trees and the influence that the four seasons have on their tree canopies and on the sky,” says De La Mora, who titled the mural “The Grove,” a nod to what was once a heavily forested area.
The trees he painted are types still found around Glen Ellyn.
Starting in October and wrapping up in December, De La Mora hand-painted the tunnel using about 20 gallons of acrylic paint.
More than 60 proposals were winnowed down, then De La Mora’s was selected through an online vote that included the top choices, according to Diana Martinez, a Glen Ellyn resident and director of the College of DuPage’s McAninch Arts Center who came up with the idea for the public art push in DuPage County.
The college also was involved in getting well-known Chicago artist Tony Fitzpatrick to complete side-by-side murals in 2021 in downtown Glen Ellyn.
Later this year, more murals are planned around DuPage County. Those will mimic the style of Andy Warhol as a runup to an exhibition at the college featuring some of the late artist’s work, Martinez says.