"It's six o'clock, baby! Union hours," yells Christopher Konecki from atop a giant cherry picker crane as he navigates the giant basket down to the ground. He's mostly joking, but for almost four weeks, he and fellow artist Neko have been out on that crane, the summer sun beating down on both of them, with spray paint flying in their faces. The respirator masks they wear while they work help with the fumes. Not so much with the heat. So even if Konecki is being slightly flippant about the hour they stop working every evening, no one would begrudge him if he was ready to call it a day.
"You come off that thing after being up there all day and it feels like you've been on a boat," says Neko, exaggeratingly swaying back and forth. "It's like you have sea legs or something. I'd probably fail a DUI test."
Near the corner of Eighth and Broadway (707 Broadway, to be exact), Konecki and Neko have been working on several murals on a seven-story parking structure. They've already finished two portraits on the sides of the structure (one on Eighth Ave. and the other on Seventh) that are modeled after artist friends Spenser Little and Carly Ealey. The big project, however, is the massive cityscape on the structure's rotunda that wraps around the entire facade. On it, a bridge modeled after the Coronado Bridge interconnects two cities.
"It's bridging technology with the arts and humanities," says Neko, who had moved to Florida more than a year ago, but came back after Konecki asked him to assist on the murals. "Chris designed the mural. I'm really just assisting and adding elements of graffiti-style stuff, but we're both painting the whole thing."
The real estate company that commissioned the piece, Emmes Realty, hired Konecki and plans to have the two artists paint an elevator control room on top of the parking structure, too. Emmes even hired local street artist Exist 1981 to paint one of the company's break rooms. Konecki and Neko expect to be done with the entire mural project by the end of the month, at which point Neko will head back to Florida. Still, he hopes the new mural will do more than turn heads.
"I hope that we get more work out of it, but I'm really hoping that it inspires other companies to hire local artists to do jobs like this," says Neko, who adds that he'll be back from time to time to work on new projects. "I gotta come back every now and then. I just love the people I work with too much."