beauty in the beast mural

September 02, 2019  •  8 Comments

As a photographer, I often ponder the Russell brothers' statement in the Sierra Club book On the Loose, "After the first artist, only the copyist."  What we do as photographers is look at something from a slightly different angle, through a different lens, with altered effects, and present the new "copy" of something that already exists.  That is why I am constantly enthralled with the "first artist" and her or his work.  This was the case while strolling around the Railyard area in Santa Fe, retrieving veggies from the Farmers' Market.  While heading back to the parking lot, I literally looked up and saw the most amazing facade.  It was the south facing or back wall of G. R. R. Martin's Jean Cocteau Cinema on Montezuma.  There, waiting, was the Beauty in the Beast by 3D muralist John Pugh.  

Obviously, I have not spent nearly enough time wandering Santa Fe lately, because the mural was done in 2015.  The trompe l'oeil technique of making a flat surface look three dimensional has been used on plaster for centuries in Europe.  Pugh has given Santa Fe a real jewel.  To me, it seems as though artists who use these techniques must have a way of seeing that certainly does not come to my eyes.  It is quite extraordinary, and lending a "Game of Thrones" feel to the building.

Santa Fe trompe l'oeil by John Pugh_-3Santa Fe trompe l'oeil by John Pugh_-3

Santa Fe trompe l'oeil by John Pugh 5Santa Fe trompe l'oeil by John Pugh 5


The dragon seems to be bursting through the surface.

Santa Fe trompe l'oeil by John Pugh_1Santa Fe trompe l'oeil by John Pugh_1


The shadows add power to the spines.

Santa Fe trompe l'oeil by John Pugh 4Santa Fe trompe l'oeil by John Pugh 4

The added and final brilliance in Pugh's mural is Beauty in the Beast, feeling the wall and approaching the dragon.  This is almost everyone's immediate reaction - to feel the three dimensionality, which is there only in our minds.

Santa Fe trompe l'oeil by John Pugh-2Santa Fe trompe l'oeil by John Pugh-2

I hope all of you are able to see Beauty in the Beast in the near future.

until next Monday,


a passion for the [email protected]



Dianne James(non-registered)
I had never seen this mural, before now. What a gifted artist! Your writing is as beautiful as your photography. I read all your blog posts, but, at times, there's no quiet moments to respond. You captured the mural exquisitely, thank you! I will have to go look at it in person, one day. I love going to Sante Fe, anyway. Heck, I love going to Taos, too, but it's been years. I really must get out of this valley more. Would love to see you guys. Oh, and the Anniversary post with your precious wedding photo was amazing. So sweet to see, as well as my Robin girl with Dominic. Such beautiful wedding photos.
Susie Sonflieth(non-registered)
Yes, this is an amazing mural. There are many in SF. Great pics.
Steve Immel(non-registered)
I love the rear wall of the Cocteau, too, and have photographed it myself. It really play mind games the 3-D is so realistic. Even when you're right next to it you feel you can reach out and peel the paint. You are so right the beauty is Pugh's tour de force. His shadows are miraculous.
elida hanson-finelli(non-registered)
Well apparently our trips to Santa Fe have been too hit and run, having missed this beauty! Although last week we finally visited the Audubon Society Building and grounds on Upper Canyon. A great place, I know you would love it! A long fascinating history to that place. But back to yours!!! What a great documentation of this mural, I look forward to visiting it. Just as great, your story line. It is a marvelous part of being a photographer that each of us has our own interpretation of an existing place or view or people etc.etc. All worth preserving but the various interpretations are an art unto themselves. Well done my shutter release sister.
Lawrence Jones(non-registered)
Lovely images Daryl and I'm loving the 3-D effect!
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