Local artists hope to show Spokane through the eyes of mother nature

May 8, 2019

Two artists hope to show Spokane through a feminine perspective, with a mural depicting the city through the eyes of Mother Nature.

The mural features two nearly symmetrical women, one of whom is cradling a baby to her chest. The painting is just an outline of two bodies against a blue backdrop now, but artists Shelby Allison and Susan Webber plan to weave Spokane monuments, trees and flowers throughout the final piece.

Webber, one of two artists painting the mural on Stevens Street, said raising three children and her work as a lactation consultant in part inspired the mural.

“My life revolves around motherhood,” she said.

The final version of the piece will include lilacs, evergreen trees and the Clocktower in Riverfront Park, Allison said. She said her favorite part of the piece, however, is how they plan to incorporate the gondolas that span the Spokane River. One of the women depicted will be holding gondolas in her hand, and her arm will function as the cable.

“We wanted to give Spokane a feminine touch,” she said.

Webber said both she and Allison usually depict women or feminine concepts in their art, and they’ve worked together on projects in the past. Both said they’ve been artists most of their lives and have been featured locally, such as at FEMFEST, Terrain and the VHS Art Club show. Allison graduated from EWU last year with a degree in graphic design and works as a waitress; Webber works with mothers at the Women, Infant and Children Nutrition Program as a lactation consultant.

Webber said the piece is a blend of their styles, which she describes as feminine and edgy.

“We’re not everybody’s cup of tea,” she said.

She said after online comments and a story ran on KHQ News warning people not to be alarmed by the seemingly nude women painted on Stevens Street, the two artists used black spray paint to temporarily censor the figures’ breasts, though the art never included nipples.

Webber, a breast cancer survivor who has had a double mastectomy, said nudity and breasts aren’t necessarily sexual or offensive, and the final version of their art will be much more than than a depiction of women’s bodies.

“It’s like turning two pages in a book and thinking you know what its about,” she said.

Mika Maloney, the program manager for Spokane Arts, said the mural is one of about a dozen spread throughout downtown and there’s also a few more murals in the works.

She said in the future, Spokane arts hopes to increase its mural budget so more artists can afford to participate in projects.

She said so far, Spokane Arts has not received any complaints from the public about the piece.

Webber said they hoped to paint the mural last Fall, but due to issues with building on the retaining wall of a railroad track, they ended up waiting until spring. Webber was also undergoing breast cancer treatment at the time and said spring and early summer was a better time to paint the mural because she is now in remission.

The latest piece of art isn’t the only notable mural in Spokane, though. From one of Willie Wiley, to the eyes that stare at passing cars on the Maple Street Bridge, Spokane has a number of memorable murals adoring building sides, retaining walls and underpasses.