I was honored to have the opportunity in September of 2019 to grace the lobby windows and walls of the new M3 Hotel in Ferney-Voltaire, just outside Geneva, with an expansive freehand ‘automatic’ mural in my signature line-drawing style. As with all of my murals, I wanted this project to reflect the energy and history of the location, and so I chose to focus on a tremendously influential resident of the area from the 18th century, Voltaire, as well as his close circle of peers and of course include visions of local flora, fauna and furniture. Not only would this theme be site specific, but also connect to an existing neon light installation suspended high in the lobby’s atrium that features the names of Voltaire and his friends in bright colors.
The mural was created in two parts, one in yellow acrylic paint marker on a wall of windows looking out into a garden passage, and the other, in pink acrylic paint marker on the opposite interior wall that features small mobile desks with plugs and wifi.
The interior pink mural, composed of complex, interwoven line drawings, features prominent portraits of Voltaire and his friend and colleague Emilie du Chatelet. In Voltaire’s left hand is a book with a bouquet of flowers exploding outward to represent the sense of enlightenment in Voltaire’s writing and philosophy. In his right hand he is holding a skull as he was a thinker, and a man of Science. Next to his shoulder sits his pet canary. Emilie Du Chatelet, drawn with hair piled high with flowers and butterflies, is seen holding dividers in her left hand as she was a mathematician and holding a portrait of Sir Isaac Newton in her right arm as she was also a famed physicist and the first to translate Newton’s original works into French. Surrounding Voltaire and Emilie are images of what the Chateau of Voltaire may have looked like; gorgeous chandeliers, candelabras, vases and piles of books scattered about among writing quills, feathers, bouquets of flowers filling the space while a cat plays, a dog sleeps and butterflies, fill the air.
The yellow mural on the opposite wall of windows looking out into the green foliage beyond features portraits of Marie Louise Mignot (Madame Denis), the niece (and secret lover) of Voltaire and the artist Jean Etienne Liotard. Surrounding the portraits is a vast display of plants and animals that are native to France and Switzerland. If you look carefully, you can see an Alpine Ibex, and Lynx, the Swiss national bird the Turaco, or its flower, the Edelweiss. I also added in a bit of creative fantasy for good measure, like a mythical beast that is half-deef, half-phoenix and a little frog riding atop a squirrel.
Both murals also include an array of my own favorite artistic symbols, particularly hands and teeth. Teeth are a re-occurring symbol throughout my artwork as a kind of grounding human totem, or signature. Teeth are our bones on display, an elemental part of each us that is used in the highest form of expression like language, and the most basic, like eating. They are the last part of us to decay and often the only way to confirm our existence after we have died. Thus, I use them throughout the mural as a kind of decoration of our collective human energy and presence. In regards to hands, beyond just loving to draw them, I also believe them to be a great relatable way to express distinct human emotions, styles, ideas and connections to others and other things. They represent both the people I’ve made portraits and of the viewers of the mural as vicarious participants in the visual panorama.