Muralist’s new work explores womanhood, pain, mythology

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) – Susan David is known as a compelling muralist whose work can be found throughout Lafayette and Louisiana.

With clean lines and interesting themes, David has put himself in the spotlight of local artists. Her latest mural was recently unveiled at the Hillard Art Museum. This immersive art experience invites audiences to explore pain, femininity and mythology together.

The “Leviathan” exhibition looks at the sea animal from a religious and semi-political point of view. Historically, Leviathan has appeared in several religious texts, including the Book of Enoch, Tanakh, and the Holy Bible. These three books were originally written in Hebrew and recognize Leviathan as a monster of the sea.

In the books, the creature takes on multiple meanings with different appearances. The description, closely related to David’s play, comes from the Jewish Book of Enoch, where Leviathan is a female monster living in the watery abyss. She is the female counterpart of Behemoth and is known for wreaking havoc.

When asked to do an installation, David’s first thought was, “Will it be indoors?” followed by “What am I going to create?”

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After the concept of Leviathan was presented, the wheels started turning. Her creative process changed earlier this summer when headlines across the country highlighted a Supreme Court decision on abortion.

“The first iterations of where I wanted to go with the mural was using an octopus as a leviathan,” explains David. “I sent the picture in and I was like, ‘That’s it, that’s the drawing,’ and it was a picture of this big squid with a man wrapped in his tentacles and a woman hovering above it. And then there was a day about two months ago when the government made a big change. And I wasn’t… not happy.”

This moment changed the course of her artwork and she wanted to show her emotions alongside the concept of this sea creature. The story she chose to portray Leviathan involves the monster as a mother. She is killed while rescuing her children. This is one of the many creation stories. After she is killed, her body is said to become earth.

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The sentiment behind the mural also aligns closely with Thomas Hobbes’ famous book entitled Leviathan, or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Commonwealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil. This book is an investigation of the government seen as Leviathan.

Once she had a clear picture of what she wanted to create, she began to draw. Concept graphics can be seen at the beginning of the exhibition, including the first sketches.

Compared to many other art mediums, murals are unique because of the space allotted. Understanding scale and form was a big factor in creating art for David.

“What I’m going to do is get my picture,” she explains. “Then I’m like, ‘Okay, will this work?’ And I’m not going to put it on paper until I really feel like I’ve unraveled the whole picture. So when I haven’t dealt with the (empty) space, I often use new tracing paper there to overlay it. This allows me to deal with the other elements. And you can see it below with the mural.

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“The character was drawn first, then I was like, ‘Okay, well, I have this character now. But I have this huge wall that I need to address. how can i do it How does she work there? How does it define space?’ So I thought about shapes and drew different types of shapes and made rectangles, circles and squares and I settled on the diamond shape with the stripes.”

It took more than a week for the giant mural to come to life in the gallery.

Hillard Museum curators Ben Hickey and David wanted the viewer to experience the gallery immersively. They achieved this by lowering the lights in the main gallery, adding colored lights to the mural and playing ocean sounds throughout the space.

At the entrance you will find a statement by the artist on the work and conceptual art of her creative process.

Leviathan is on display at the Hillard Museum at 710 East St. Mary Blvd through January 7th. in Lafayette.