Of all her striking features - from her bright green eyes to her captivating freckles - none is more remarkable than her curious facial expression. Part thoughtfulness, part bemusement, her inscrutable gaze seems to ponder a decision - one that might be connected to the shiny golden apple in her hand.
“The most important thing for me was capturing the look in her eyes,” explains Danny Doya, the Miami-born artist who created the seven-story image of that inscrutable woman, Eris, the Greek goddess of discord, on the side of The Alexander luxury apartment building on Fern Street in downtown West Palm Beach.
Doya’s mural is more than a pretty picture — it highlights a rich, if convoluted, story in Greek mythology involving a crashed wedding, a tossed apple and the start of the Trojan War.
“It’s that moment where she’s holding the apple, still deciding whether to throw it or not” and set off an explosive chain of events, said Doya of his image.
The mural, titled “Eris and the Golden Apple,” is just one of several wall-sized pieces of art that have made downtown a booming district of public art. It sits across the street from “Spirit of Invention,”a large, complex piece by artist Tristan Eaton on the side of the Alexander Lofts, projects of Florida-based Ram Real Estate.
“We have these enormous canvases, these big blank walls that are not very attractive,” says Jennifer Stull, Ram’s managing director of asset management, who says that “99 percent of the feedback has been positive. Art is subjective. (But) this mural is so beautiful, a remarkable example of art in public spaces. and it’s an identification piece for the people who live in the building.”
The Eris mural has attracted quite a lot of attention since its completion last summer.
It’s not only a frequent subject on Instagram, but it’s invited some controversy.
In May, Palm Beach Post reader Alyce Carrelli of Atlantis wrote a letter admitting that while “Danny Doya is a very talented artist,” she found that he was “so spot-on with Eris’ facial expression that after passing her, I actually feel sad and melancholy. Is that any way to go to work? Why not the Goddess of Love? Or the Goddess of Happiness? Or the Goddess of Have a Great Day? Please don’t depress me on my way to work. Make me smile.”
Alternately, architect Timothy Hullihan of North Palm Beach responded to Carrelli’s letter, reminding that the concepts of joy and strife are closely connected, and that perhaps that “looking for Doya’s mural to shine a single ray of happiness on an individual life misses the point. When one person suffers, the world suffers with him, and there is no greater joy than to ease the suffering of another person.”
Doya, 24, who began drawing and then painting as a kid, got his bachelor’s degree in fine art at Florida State University, and returned to Pembroke Pines and began doing Web and graphic design to help pay the bills - “I did a lot of logos and letterhead for start-ups,” says Doya, giving hope to current art majors and their parents that artists can earn a living.
“They’d hint a little bit that they would like me to do something a little more lucrative,” he says of his Colombian-born parents, who moved to the U.S. without “a lot of money” to give their family a better life. “But they’re very supportive.”
A live painting he was doing in downtown Miami caught the eye of someone from Ram Real Estate, who asked him if he were interested in another project. Intrigued, he moved to West Palm Beach earlier this year to work on the mural full-time. Starting in April, Doya says it took him “three weeks of work, spread over a lot of months” because of weather concerns.
Doya says he has always been fascinated by mythology, and the story of Eris, the Greek goddess of discord, is certainly a fascinating tale of revenge, vanity and beauty. It’s told that after not being invited to the wedding of Thetis and Peleus, Eris showed up anyway, tossing a golden apple into the affair inscribed with the message “To The Fairest.” As several goddesses insisted that the apple was meant for them, it was decided to let a human, Paris, be the final judge.
Paris, unfortunately, was not an impartial judge, and declared the winner to be the goddess of love Aphrodite because she offered him quite a kickback — the love of the most beautiful woman in the world. That woman turned out to be Helen of Troy, and the scandal that followed caused the Trojan War.
Eris’ face as envisioned by Doya is notable for the detail that went into it. She has light and dark streaks in her hair, that may be natural, or produced by sunlight and shadow. There’s even a splash of freckle on her cheek, offset by her bold teal lip color and fashionably matching nails.
Stull says that Eris’ attractive visage provides a contrast of “feminine energy to (Eaton’s) masculine piece of pop art. You have this vintage building across from a new architecture building.”
She adds that even though Eris was the goddess of chaos, “there’s no chaos going on in that piece. It’s just beautiful and wistful.”