When the Mountains Fell In Love with the Sea Mural

Aug 09, 2022 by Amber McClain Shaw
The most unexpected, wonderfully marvelous and fun surprise this summer has been watching a beautiful mural being painted right across the street from where I live. 

Before the mural was painted, part of the area along the street where I live could be described as blighted. Tagging, garbage and homeless campsites along the railroad tracks were something people walked by, at a quick clip, listening to headphones or walking their dog or talking on their cell phone. The neighborhood residents of million dollar condos, luxury apartment buildings, single family homes, lower-income and group housing and homeless encampments both large and small all pass by regularly on their way to and from nearby parks, shopping, restaurants, bars, or on their early morning or evening dog walks. The unhoused people often travel along the train tracks. The housed residents generally use the sidewalks. But no one ever stopped in this area to take in the view, unless a train was going by and they were forced to wait. There was not much to see if you did stop. 

The big blank wall is now the sight of a huge, stunning mural by Bay Area artist Lacey Bryant. It has transformed my view and my neighborhood in a most amazing metamorphosis, leaving me in awe of the power of art to create change.
We realized a mural was coming when we saw a nighttime projection on the wall. This was to aid in outlining the big color blocks.

Instead of rushing by, people now stop to take in San Jose’s largest mural. They often go out of their way to get a better view. They put their phone calls on hold to take photos, and they talk to others who have also stopped to admire the artwork. The mural is titled When the Mountains Fell In Love with the Sea and features some of the wonders of California: our variety of native wildflowers, our blue skies, a monarch butterfly, our coastline, and ocean. There are pelicans and a California sea otter. The mountains and the sea are in a loving embrace that forms the Bay Area, and Lacey imagined this as a representation of those who are here and those who come from across the ocean coming together to create our community. The models for the figures are friends of hers who are engaged.
Lacey Bryant paints a California poppy, one of the many native wildflowers depicted on the mural.

The romantic symbolism of two different elements coming together to form something beautiful is what is so stunning about the mural. Lacey brings together the land and the sea, the native and the migrant, into one big and beautiful landscape that we see simultaneously from close-up and far away. It’s a moving statement on the power of love, and art, and what it can do to transform. It’s a much-appreciated viewpoint when we are otherwise surrounded by negativity, division and destructive forces in the world around us.
Lacey starts on the mountain's face.
The mural is so large -- four stories tall and a whole block long -- it is difficult to photograph.

The mural was made possible by the Ryland Mews HOA and their president Paula S., Empire Seven Studios, and artist Lacey Bryant and her assistants. Lacey worked for fourteen days straight to paint this massive mural, averaging 11 hours a day, much of the time in the direct hot sun, once in a brief rain shower. The train passed by as she was painting. Kids on bikes stopped to admire. Neighbors and friends gathered to watch the process. 

It’s transformed the neighborhood and strengthened our community and connections to each other. I’ve met many new people, and I’ve enjoyed watching people slow down, pause, and smile at the unexpected view. And I am so delighted that this artwork has transformed the view from my living room. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing it out my window.
The almost-complete mural.

Learn more about artist Lacey Bryant and see her work here and on Instagram here.
Learn more about Empire Seven Studios and Gallery and San Jose murals here.
Downtown San Jose is full of murals and public art on almost every block! Keep your eyes open as you walk around.