This Timelapse of a 50-Layer Mural Being Made at SFMOMA Remains Mesmerizing

Artist Leah Rosenberg’s artwork for San Francisoco’s foremost culture center is a love letter to the “healing and happiness” that emerged from the pandemic — an ode still relevant a year after its debut.

The pandemic opened up a chasm of conversations around mental health. When the peripheries of our individual realities were bound to our confines, we all went a bit stir-crazy — to say the least. For many (like yours truly), the majority of 2020 was spent oscillating between various degrees of sanity. Some days were better than others; a few days were spent shackled to my bed by crippling anxiety and sinking depression; most days, however, were organized around more limbic responses — falling dominos of fight-or-flight reactions.

It was hard. Really hard. For all of us. That difficulty around mental health remains as society assimilates back into familiar ways of existing. However, most of our personal actualities tend to orbit around the things — people, objects, objectives — we focus on.

Muralist Leah Rosenberg is helping to ensure those things we choose to concentrate on are bright and colorful… one layer at a time.

Photo: Screenshot via SFMOMA

Initially, Rosenberg began her mural, which debuted at SFMOMA in March of last year, by painting the message “Breathe. Remember You Can Always Return To Your Breath” in the color orange, which she promptly covered over in a deeper pigment of blue used on the entire wall. It erased the aforementioned words and laid a new area down for her to write another message; Rosenberg followed her first message with “Find A Comfortable Place Trust It For Awhile.”

This process, more or less, repeated itself 48 more times. All that tedium has officially accumulated in the creation of her mural Getting Better Everyday a Color, that’s still on display as part of SFMOMA’s Bay Area Walls exhibition.

For the fiftieth and final layer, Rosenberg took inspiration from the “entire palette of San Francisco’s Sunset District” — the saffron and lavender tones mirror morning fog, while darker, more stark citrus-like oranges echoed the neighborhood’s iconic… well, sunsets. Combined, the various hues and shades of the utilized colors offer, according to the artist, a “healing potential of seeing and processing them.”

“Bringing colors from the outside in encourages viewers to pay attention to colors in their everyday, to be present,” Rosenberg writes of her process, per SFMOMA.

Each self-care message Rosenberg ingrained in her mural’s painted layers is adapted from local author and curator Susan O’Malley, who passed away suddenly at 38 years old on February 25, 2015 — just three days before she was scheduled to give birth to twins via c-section, collapsing on the floor at her Berkeley home. O’Malley and her unborn twins tragically died; she’s now widowed husband Tim Caro-Bruce.

Leah Rosenberg, Getting Better Everyday a Color for Bay Area Walls, 2021 (in process). (Photo: Courtesy of Leah Rosenberg via Don Ross)

O’Malley’s book, Advice from My 80-Year-Old Self, continues on as a source of inspiration for Rosenberg. This mural, itself, is an ode to the self-care messages O’Malley wrote in a compilation of healing exercises she titled Getting Better Every Day, hence Rosenberg’s unmistakable nod to the work.

Now complete, Getting Better Everyday a Color exists as a tangible reminder that we’re all, in fact, striving for some semblance of a better day, every day. And our mental health struggles along the way shouldn’t be ignored; they need to be heeded like warning signs, highway markers, and off-ramp signage, so we can veer our existences in the right direction.

If you’re keen on watching Rosenberg create this emotionally resonating mural, watch this absolutely mesmerizing timelapse video of her painting it (and rolling over those messages to make way for new ones), here.

Feature image: Courtesy of SFMOMA

Leave a Reply