Artist Dan Masi spends six months painting a Goya-esque mural, entirely at night
For 260 hours under the cover of darkness, Dan Masi painted.
Over six months, entirely at night, Masi painted, combining his own artistic style with the colors and themes of Francisco Goya to create a mural that now envelopes the Lilypad collaborative art and performance space in Cambridge.
“I wanted to create almost a church-like thing,” Masi said. “An overwhelming swirl of music and colors and experience.”
Daniel Sarver, staff curator and director of operations at the Lilypad, said that when he started curating a few years ago, he quickly realized framed paintings weren’t right for the space. With so many people using the Lilypad for many different purposes, a mural was the way to go.
Under the Hill is the second mural Masi has created for the space, and Sarver said he was excited to have him back because Masi’s work presents a sense of levity through bright primary colors, but upon further study, there are greater depths to explore.
“The overnight thing was necessary,” Sarver said. “Logistically, there was no other way. And I think it adds a certain quality to the work.”
During the day, the Lilypad hosts kids’ movement classes and piano lessons before transitioning into music and other performances during the evening.
“I’m like the elf who comes in the night and adds things,” Masi said. A painter and illustrator from Somerville, Masi has a BFA in illustration from the Art Institute of Boston and spent 20 years creating small pieces of display art for Martignetti Liquors.
According to a press release, Masi strives to combine elements of mythology and modern anxiety, exploring themes of illusion and ennui.
He said he likes to come to the Lilypad and overhear the ideas people have about what’s going on in the mural—and they get pretty wild, he says. Even he is surprised by how the final piece came out. Though the mural is technically finished, Masi is still painting little corners, adding a new design in the bathroom, continuing to expand his artwork into the space.
Where muralists once drew meticulous sketches on grid paper to transfer onto the mural-to-be, Masi said this mural was free flowing—he never knew exactly what would emerge from the tip of his brushes. He said he felt like Goya was with him as he painted, and he wondered what the artist would think of this section or that.
“I like his way of thinking,” Masi said. “The purpose of Goya’s work was to express something darker in a beautiful way. I guess I sort of do that too.”
Masi’s mural is divided into three progressive panels. Upon entering the Lilypad, the first panel pays homage to Goya’s well-known prints in a muted color scheme that Masi calls his “Goya photo booth,” since so many showgoers pause to take pictures with the painting.
The second panel recreates Goya’s El Pelele tapestry with a highly saturated color theme that updates skin tones and makes the “straw man” figure appear more ambiguous to create symbols of a globally connected world that are open to broader interpretation, according to press materials.
The third panel progresses from an homage to Goya into Masi’s own experiences with the artistic community in and around Boston with symbols Masi felt would be appropriate for a “jazz jam, rock show, or child’s birthday party.”
“Kids have been responding really well to the mural,” Sarver said. “They respond to the colors the most, and the deeper, scarier stuff goes over their heads.”
Masi said he doesn’t think he’s given anyone nightmares… yet.
There will be an art opening at the Lilypad on Thursday, May 31, with live DJing and a musical performance by Nightime Sunshine.
“I’m not dissatisfied,” Masi said about the mural. “That’s a huge concession, as I usually am dissatisfied. But when you’re sleeping all day, this becomes your everything.”
UNDER THE HILL MURAL OPENING WITH DAN MASI. THU 5.31. THE LILYPAD, INMAN SQUARE, CAMBRIDGE. 7:30PM/FREE/ALL AGES. LILYPADINMAN.COM