A colorful 60-foot mural is the latest public artwork in Brentwood that captures the vibrancy and importance of Latin American culture, down to the well-regarded pupusa, the national dish of El Salvador.
The visionary behind the mural is artist Segundo Orellana, 54, of Patchogue. The native of Ecuador is a self-taught artist who visited museums, libraries and galleries to guide his craft. Since the 2008 recession, he has used his skills to promote the beauty of Latin America through nearly a dozen murals gracing businesses and buildings in Patchogue, Central Islip and Brentwood.
His newest work, unveiled Friday at Brentwood Pharmacy on bustling Suffolk Avenue and to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, weaves glimpses of Latin America into the art.
“Making murals is so important, because we live in such a diverse community,” Orellana told Newsday a few days before the unveiling. “Creating murals is giving respect to the community and being proud of our heritage, hobbies, family, customs, our music and so many things.”
Orellana, a full-time artist, joined Teatro Yerbabruja in Bay Shore five years ago. The art center, named after a plant that flourishes in harsh conditions, focuses on traditionally underserved and underrepresented communities and artists across Long Island, with an emphasis on Central Islip, Brentwood and North Bay Shore.
“Doing public art projects, like the murals, that reflect Latin American culture [reminds] us of who we are, where we come from, our roots, our colors, our music,” said Margarita Espada, a Puerto Rican artist who founded Teatro in 2004. “It is also an opportunity to educate and to create spaces for conversations with all the residents of so many cultures that coexist in Brentwood.”
The mural took Orellana and his assistant, Daniel Jimenes, 23, of Central Islip, 150 hours to complete. Jimenes, also a self-taught artist, prepped the building and drew grids while Orellana sketched his outline. Then, they got to work. Rather than using a projector to cast the design on the wall, Orellana painstakingly sketched the outline by hand before hand-painting it. The pharmacy is the site of a previous mural by Orellana, which was removed for his latest work.
Jimenes, who is Dominican, is Orellana’s apprentice. Although Jimenes said his personal art skews toward fine art on canvas, he said he values the experience he is gaining under Orellana, which “takes him outside of his comfort zone.”
The mural, stretching across the side of the pharmacy, is a mix of rich hues ranging from deep reds to cerulean blue. Rather than focusing on just one theme, Orellana’s mural captures pieces of Latin America and represents multiple countries in the region.
At the center of the mural is a Guatemalan woman representing the indigenous people of Central America. She overlooks a sandy beach and ocean waves, a nod to Latin America’s stunning beaches, Orellana said. Another woman is painted cooking pupusas, the thick griddle cakes from El Salvador and Honduras.
“This [Brentwood] is a place where the diversity is unique,” Orellana said. “Everyone who walks past the mural is part of the community … We all have our culture deep within us, but seeing the mural is like a light that shines on our culture.”
With Darwin Yanes
Where to see some of Segundo Orellana's murals:
- Brentwood Pharmacy: 761 Suffolk Ave., Brentwood
- Pronto food bank: 128 Pine Aire Dr., Bay Shore
- La Placita Deli: 92 Wicks Rd., Brentwood
- Pollo Campero: 1665 5th Ave., Bay Shore
- Maple Avenue Mini Mart: 109 Maple Ave., Patchogue