VIRGINIA BEACH – When is a large colorful mural painted onto the side of a building not simply a pretty piece of artwork?
When it’s based off a flag and a motto that have been around for more than a century but has been slightly re-envisioned to restate not only the original theme, but enhanced to highlight hope for the future as well.
While there’s no shortage of murals in the ViBe Creative District, one of the 10 that was added during the most recent ViBe Mural Festival is certainly more than just a pretty picture.
It was created through a partnership between local graphic designer John Hutchinson, who works for 17th Street Surf Shops, and the owner and operator of Igor’s Custom Signs and Pinstriping in the ViBe District. After being delayed by a few days of rain the mural was painted onto the east facing wall of a building still under construction on 17th Half Street between Baltic and Mediterranean avenues.
“It struck me a few years back that our state flag expressed some very relevant principles for our era to contemplate,” Hutchinson said. “Thus always to tyrants” is an ancient observation of the eventual fate for all those who would usurp power at the expense of others.”
Hutchinson’s roots in the surf culture are deep, dating back to 1965.
He said the mural features the Oceanic Goddess, who has risen up to “bring down and humble the hubris-filled tyrant” whose greed has brought about his own destruction. But the semi-nude, multi armed, sword-and-spear-and-snake-wielding goddess is presented vanquishing the chain-holding tyrant while his fallen crown lies nearby, but that isn’t the only thing happening in the mural.
Viewers will also see a lighthouse, a dolphin or two, a tornado, and a wind turbine.
And that’s where the message of hope can be found.
“Climate change and sea level rise are upon us here and now, and they will test our civilization,” Hutchinson said. “And yes, that is a wind turbine and it represents a hopeful possibility while the dolphin looks on approvingly at the fallen despot.”
The concept behind the mural was Hutchinson’s, but the owner of Igor’s Custom Design provided the experience, having done a large-scale mural before.
While Hutchinson compared the experience to a “fool rushing in” and isn’t sure he agrees that it was actually a “fun” project, he said there’s a certain satisfaction in seeing people looking for meaning in their work.
“The opportunity to plant the visual seed of an idea or a concept or principle or truth in the hope it might find fertile soil in which to take root, and that it might also be interesting enough to hold someone’s attention for longer than three seconds (makes it worthwhile),” he said.