Mural marks Glen Ellyn as the host of coming Frida Kahlo exhibit

  • Geoff Bevington is painting a mural on the wall of Olive 'n Vinnie's in Glen Ellyn. The mural honors Mexican icon Frida Kahlo in anticipation of a major exhibition of her paintings coming to the College of DuPage.

      Geoff Bevington is painting a mural on the wall of Olive 'n Vinnie's in Glen Ellyn. The mural honors Mexican icon Frida Kahlo in anticipation of a major exhibition of her paintings coming to the College of DuPage. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Geoff Bevington is painting a Frida Kahlo mural on the wall of Olive 'n Vinnie's in Glen Ellyn.

      Geoff Bevington is painting a Frida Kahlo mural on the wall of Olive 'n Vinnie's in Glen Ellyn. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Geoff Bevington is painting a mural of Frida Kahlo with her signature floral wreath and flowers, using spray paints and cartooning techniques.

      Geoff Bevington is painting a mural of Frida Kahlo with her signature floral wreath and flowers, using spray paints and cartooning techniques. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 9/29/2020 7:31 PM

Geoff Bevington doesn't mind the interruptions.

He's painted about 150 murals, but this one is special. It's his most personal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

So when Metra commuters, Prairie Path users and students try to pull him aside from his unfolding work in downtown Glen Ellyn, Bevington is happy to talk about his inspiration and technique.

"Art is a celebration, and I can tell you that all the people that are going by, whether they say something or not, they all smile," Bevington says.

It's hard not to smile at the vibrant blue backdrop, the poppies, marigolds and gardenias, all the favorite flowers of Frida Kahlo, the Mexican icon surrounded by butterflies and crowned with roses in Bevington's mural.

At 28 feet wide and 17 feet tall, it's the largest piece of outdoor public art he's ever created in his career. But the scale has to match the anticipation.

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Geoff Bevington paints his Frida Kahlo mural in downtown Glen Ellyn.
  Geoff Bevington paints his Frida Kahlo mural in downtown Glen Ellyn. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Next summer, Glen Ellyn will become the epicenter of Fridamania when College of DuPage opens a major Kahlo exhibit in June, a year later than originally scheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bevington's mural, gracing the north-facing outer wall of Olive 'n Vinnie's along the Prairie Path, will make the first impression on the thousands of Frida fans expected to flock to the host town via the Metra system.

As the son of a first-generation Mexican American born in Los Angeles, Bevington wants to do Kahlo justice. He has to capture that look in her eyes, that formidable stare in her self-portraits, that strength Kahlo expressed through pain and tragedy until her death at 47.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I want to make sure I get the eyebrows right, not too many," Bevington said of her trademark unibrow. "That seems to be the biggest concern."

Geoff Bevington uses a grid system to paint a huge Frida Kahlo mural in downtown Glen Ellyn.
  Geoff Bevington uses a grid system to paint a huge Frida Kahlo mural in downtown Glen Ellyn. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Bevington pitched the project to Diana Martinez, the director of the College of DuPage's McAninch Arts Center, and Dawn Smith, the executive director of the Glen Ellyn Chamber of Commerce. Both championed his idea to promote an exhibit that will provide an economic boost and traffic to businesses recovering from coronavirus shutdowns.

"We're hoping that the mural itself will have legs to continue on and will be a beginning of additional artwork and murals in downtown Glen Ellyn," Smith said.

A 26-year resident of Glen Ellyn, Bevington has mostly painted murals across the country and France with themes about literacy or arts advocacy. But his Kahlo mural reflects the influence of his grandfather, John P. Delgadillo Sr., who migrated from Mexico to Texas in the early 1900s.

Delgadillo worked as a professional designer and title artist in Hollywood for Pacific Title and Art. He helped to paint the titles for "Gone with the Wind" and director Vincente Minnelli's classic MGM musicals, "An American in Paris" and "Brigadoon."

Delgadillo lived near northeast Los Angeles and in retirement started a project encouraging gang members to paint murals instead of tagging walls.

"His murals celebrated Mexican American art and culture and were reminiscent of those painted by Frida Kahlo's husband, Diego Rivera," Bevington wrote in his artist statement. "My grandfather has been the driving force behind my desire to create and share my artistic talents."

Geoff Bevington is painting a mural on the wall of Olive 'n Vinnie's in Glen Ellyn. The mural honors artist Frida Kahlo ahead of a major exhibition of her paintings coming to the College of DuPage.
  Geoff Bevington is painting a mural on the wall of Olive 'n Vinnie's in Glen Ellyn. The mural honors artist Frida Kahlo ahead of a major exhibition of her paintings coming to the College of DuPage. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

In bringing Kahlo to life, Bevington is using spray paint in a nod to his grandfather. He also enlisted Glenbard West High School and St. Petronille students to help him paint the background and celebrate an artistic coup for the College of DuPage.

"To have this kind of be a starting point to get people excited about it, it's an honor," he said.

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