Shot for the non-profit arts group After School Matters in Chicago, IL. Features the work of local mosaic artist Ginny Sykes.

Mosaic Mural – After School Matters – Mosaic Art Teacher – Ginny Sykes – O’Hare International Airport – Chicago, Illinois

Design of Mural for O’Hare Airport
Title: On the Wings of Water
By Ginny Sykes

Concept and Content

The design of the mural was created by Ginny Sykes. Ideas developed through a charrette with After School Matters students were incorporated into the design with modifications by the artist.


Ginny Sykes – Artist / Educator

Macquarie Corporation requested a theme with international interest for the airport mural. Water is the unifying thematic element presenting many possibilities for interpretation and design work. It serves as a connective tissue that literally links us across continents and between cities, towns, and rural areas, or separates us, depending on the interpretation. A powerful metaphor and symbol for rebirth and rejuvenation, water is used in rituals and ceremonies both public and private in many cultures and across time. Water is literally something we can not live without. It forms most of our corporeal content and is essential for all living things. Relating it to the function of an international airport, nearly all flights out of O’Hare International airport must cross over large bodies of water.


Ginny Sykes – Artist / Educator

There is an ecological subtext: we stand at a crossroads as human beings in our care of the earth; water will be a defining element in our survival as a species. How we attend to this precious commodity is one of the most important issues of our time. Politically, water may well supersede oil as an important commodity; this is already happening in many parts of the world. With global warming, changes in the topography and weather patterns are already occurring. Water is a large part of this change as has been seen by the effects of tsunamis, hurricanes, and storms of increased intensity and disappearing shorelines. My design goal was to present multiple perspectives through a poetic narrative that would hint at the questions surrounding water.

Narrative of the Design

Water moves across the narrative. The work begins (reading from left to right) with two fragments of overlapping puzzle pieces and two oversized, overlapping pools of water. Into the larger pool a ceramic drop of water falls and creates a ripple effect. The water flows behind a huge orchid that is flanked on the right by three allium bulbs. Two ceramic water drops lie on the petals of the orchid.


Ginny Sykes – Artist / Educator

To the right of the allium there is a mountainous or island like land mass in the background at the horizon. The image moves the viewer’s vision from a close up to distant perspective. A large body of water loosely reflects the land mass. This view is bracketed by the allium bulbs on the left and the figure of a girl on the right who turns to looks through a telescope into the distance. Reflections in the water connect her to the flowers, water and land in the distance, as well as to the shore on which she stands, implied but not seen by the yellow shadow/reflections of her dress and body that angle diagonally back toward the upper left. To her right, a series of transformations proceed, beginning with a line that travels from the left (the water) around and through her torso until it becomes several other images: These lines represent wind, waves and a kind of magnetic, imaginative energy that begins to simultaneously turn into and release birds in flight. She is the catalyst for the transformations that proceed from and through her.


Ginny Sykes – Artist / Educator

Waves metamorphose into birds and back into puzzle pieces completing the right side of the composition with both interlocking puzzle sections and a free floating puzzle piece on the extreme right. The largest puzzle piece has within it an image of water meeting the shore; it overlaps a design that references an African style of patterning found on mud cloth. Both sides of the mural have open edges that allow the images to release into the surrounding site and imply an open end to the social and political discussion about water and its central position in our lives.   Photos above by Dorothy Perry
Ginny Sykes Artist