Local store unveils mural capturing favorite books through the years

SALISBURY — The South Main Street Book Company may have been in the news of late for things not directly related to books, but on Friday night, the shop formally introduced a new mural that circles the store walls that captures books that have been popular favorites through time.

Artist Irisol Gonzalez, who lives and works primarily in Charlotte, said she initially asked owner Alissa Redmond what books she wanted captured in the mural. The two women talked, and then Gonzalez said she did something she never does — she began working without a complete design.

“I usually create the design, make any needed changes, get the OK, then paint,” she said. “But in this case, I designed the first section, then painted it, and we talked some more, I designed the next part, then painted it — it was a little uncomfortable for me.”

But in the end, both she and Redmond were more than pleased with the end results.

“Yes, I wanted people to be able to identify the books, but more than that, I wanted to connect with what books do for us,” she said. “They allow us to imagine, to think, to be curious, to explore, and to live in worlds we would otherwise never experience.”

The mural runs around the upper walls of both sides of the long, narrow shop. The images begin more innocent, says Gonzalez, capturing images from “Oh The Places You Will Go,” “The Wizard of Oz” and other children’s books, followed by “In the Jar,” where there are a number of small jars along the wall containing images chosen by Redmond.

“She wanted one to contain a picture of Joe, the local artist here who passed away recently,” said Gonzalez, “and there are the red shoes from the Wizard of Oz and because I think this was once a shoe store, and there is the logo from the book store that was here before. She wanted to put things in them that are memories she wanted to preserve.” As the murals progress, they become more “conceptual, and more confrontational,” she said.

In one image, what looks like camouflage is actually a map of Salisbury. One piece of it is depicted under a magnifying glass and the portion enlarged is largely blank.

“That shows that some things in our history are being erased, even as they are being looked at so closely,” Gonzalez said.

The end piece of the mural is in stark contrast to the rest. All other parts of the mural are in magnificent colors, while the last portion is in black, white and red. The last section addresses a lot of the current struggles for equality and justice.

The final piece captures a demonstration, and includes numerous voices for equality, including a poster that says “Black Lives Matter.” Redmond said some have assumed that means she supports the Black Lives Matter Organization, which has come under harsh criticism for amassing millions of dollars, some of which has been spent in questionable ways.

“Some people have said that makes me a racist because I support an organization that undermines the cause,” she said. “But I am a supporter of the movement, not the organization.”

Redmond said that she decided to have a mural painted “in part in response to the mural that is just around the corner, across from Go Burrito. It’s perfectly fine, and a lot of people come just to see it, but it’s very white, and I wanted something that represented what I personally thought would be welcoming.”

Of the more than 40 people who attended the unveiling, there were no critics, only supporters.

“I love it,” exclaimed attorney Vick Bost. “I mean that from the heart. I love the demonstrations, I can see the wheels turning as it progresses, and the colors are magnificent.”

Gonzalez said she hoped there was something in the mural for everyone, and it appears she was successful, at least for one viewer.

“It is absolutely beautiful,” said PJ Ricks. “It is varied in themes and in colors, and there is something for everybody, just like this store.”

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