Senior Sofia Eichsteadt ’22 created a stunning mural which will be permanently housed in the Modern Language hallway in the Upper School. Eichsteadt said that she was asked by her junior year Spanish teacher, Carlos Chubb, if she would be interested in creating the mural last November.
“The directions were broad,” Eichsteadt said. “Basically, just to come up with a mural design that incorporated the languages taught in the department and/or include a travel aspect. GA was generous enough to allow me a budget so I could buy the supplies needed to complete the project.”
Eichsteadt said she worked with Visual Arts Department Chair David Love when coming up with the designs and went through a bunch of different ideas and iterations before settling on what the piece eventually became. The mural consists of four different wooden panels painted with acrylic paint to represent the four different languages taught at GA. Eichsteadt decided that each panel would focus on architecture from countries where each language is spoken.
For the Spanish panel, she painted Machu Picchu (Peru) and La Sagrada Familia (Spain). France was depicted with the iconic Eiffel Tower, while Neuschwanstein Castle represented Germany. Chinese was represented with the Great Wall of China. However, the background patterns of the panels also had meaning.
“I created patterns for the background inspired by traditional patterns,” Eichsteadt said “For example, tiles for the Spanish one and textile patterns for the German one. There are silhouettes in the background of some countries that each language is spoken in, and bordering the paintings are the names of the countries where each language is an official language, written in that language.”
Those background patterns stood out to Love. He even said he had hoped Eichsteadt would have simply made the background the final project. However, he called it a “wonderful juxtaposition” between a realistic painting and one that is abstract.
“Her color is amazing and incorporates a whole series of shifts between complimentary colors, warm and cool,” Love said. “Her glazing technique which is perfect for the architectural forms and lastly her smart decision to incorporate the names of the countries that speak the different languages, as a repeating border around the edges. This way, the piece provides real information and insight, while also being an amazing and quite contemporary work of art. It’s simply stunning and raises the bar for what a mural can be.”
The senior added that the plan from the start was for the mural to be a permanent fixture in the school, so she did her best to be sensitive and illuminating with the subject.
“Part of the idea was to be educational while also celebrating the beauty and complexity of each language and respective cultures,” Eichsteadt said. “However, culture, language, location, are all very broad and complex and there are so many aspects of each language, culture, location that could be explored, and I couldn't do all of them. The reason I decided on architecture and why I included symbolism and left each piece "unfinished", or at least, mostly devoid of any surrounding environment, was to encourage more exploration into the specific language using the art and architecture as an entry point to the location and cultural aspects.”
Eichsteadt said she knew about the other languages and cultures through history classes and friends from other language classes, but since she has only taken Spanish at GA, she wanted to make sure she was being inclusive and respectful to the other languages she knew less about. To do so, the senior sent her designs to Chubb, who relayed them to the rest of the department who could approve or suggested change to the work. Eichsteadt added that it helped with the writing of the Chinese character, specifically.
Many members of the Upper School faculty lauded Eichsteadt’s project with a special reception after the installation was hung. Glasses of sparkling cider were raised to show praise for her artistic abilities, and Eichsteadt and her family basked in the glow of her very special addition to Germantown Academy.