Driving down Homestead Road, it’s hard to miss the bold splashes of paint, aged photos and intersecting roads in the colorful display of art at Santa Clara’s Lawrence Station Shopping Center, but the mural is more than simply a roadside attraction and Instagramable photo spot.
After being commissioned by the Lawrence Station property owner to liven up the aging center across the street from Kaiser Pemanente, San Jose mural artist Lila Gemellos got to work. Gemellos sat down with the owner — whose name she declined to state — and sifting through old family photos as well as online for images to best highlight the area’s past.
“There was a lot of tender, loving care from the property owner in terms of what went into this,” said Gemellos. “There’s a family photo of the Kaiser property when they sold it and Carmen is the label of cherries that were picked off the property. We wanted to look at the entire history of this area, which is really what this piece of artwork is about. There are people who walk away wiping tears from their eyes having remembered what this area once was.”
Gemellos said to complete the task of creating mural’s map centerpiece, she pulled approximately 10 images featuring Lawrence Station Road and settled on a 1935 roadmap as the base for the mural, which extends from the center’s vacated corner space to Grocery Outlet. She additionally found a photo of a traffic jam on Lawrence Station Road – something she believes would have led to the push for Lawrence Station Road to become Lawrence Expressway – and an image of the original Lawrence Station.
Once the layout was decided, Gemellos said she showed the owner a “very loose and watercolored” background she wanted to create and the Instagramable and interactive features she wanted to add to not only draw people in from the road but serve as a reason to visit.
“The colors are really where my soul shows in the artwork,” said Gemellos. “There are also a lot of interactive features, and that’s something I’ve had a lot of success with my artwork. It’s really something that sets my work apart. These are things that are done at a scale where you’re supposed to be able to stand in front of them and take a picture. People stand underneath the mural’s compass and wear it as a crown or they stand underneath the bell. People stand underneath the heart, and the heart, once you stand underneath it says, ‘I heart Santa Clara.’ The ‘Welcome to Santa Clara’ is such a hit. It’s a really neat way of engaging the wall and begging people to play with it.”
Completed mid-October, Gemellos believes the mural, Lawrence Station Center/#LawrenceStationCenter, resonates across ages for a variety of reasons, whether those be the colors, lines or content, and said she loves seeing how the mural affects those who view it. And, although Gemellos has painted dozens of murals and left her mark on San Jose metro’s public spaces, she gets emotional when speaking about the future of art.
“I believe that the hope and dream and the possibility to improve public space is absolutely my life’s work,” she said. “There’s a hope for artists in the future. There’s a need for us in a technological world in that a fine artist can have a business and be a part of the future. We’ve got cookie-cutter spaces going up and there’s nothing that is unique about it and that’s what the community begs for — to be remembered for what makes it unique, and getting to help communities reach that and be happy with who they are makes me hopeful for the future of art.”
Lawrence Station Center/#LawrenceStationCenter can be seen at the corner of Homestead Road and Lawrence Expressway. Gemellos’ other work can be seen mostly throughout San Jose — at schools, Eastridge Mall, Santana Row, in Willow Glen and at the iconic Falafel’s Drive-In on Stevens Creek. Visit gemellosmurals.com for more information on the artist.