This article was originally published in the Glendale News-Press on Aug. 14
When the Stone Barn Nature Center finally opens at Deukmejian Wilderness Park this year, patrons are likely to be captivated by a stained-glass mosaic that captures the flora, fauna and feel of the vast public space.
The glinting, 26-foot-long mural titled “The Breath of a Deukmejian Day” will be displayed at the site’s amphitheater and is meant to capture the breadth of what the nature park offers — kit foxes, mountain lions, hummingbirds and manzanita trees. It offers viewers a slice of what spending the day at the park might be like, artist Hannah Maximova said.
“So on the left, we have the morning and we have a life-size mountain lion and the birds, and as we go, we see the different animals from throughout the day. The final animals are bats, so it’s the story of a day,” she explained.
“Oh, I’m very excited for everybody to see this thing. It was an exciting six months to make it and I’m so proud of it. It’s my 16th mural and by far my most precise and dynamic one.”
The park’s historic barn, constructed in 1918, was once the heart of a winemaking operation. Though the property was eventually sold to a developer who intended to raze the structure and build homes, the city purchased the land in 1988 to make way for the park. Repurposing the barn into a nature center was proposed in 1990, and after four phases of work, the project is nearly ready.
The Glendale Parks and Open Space Foundation has helped shepherd the project since the group formed in 2008 to raise funds and manage programming for the city’s parks. The foundation commissioned Maximova, a 19-year Glendale resident who lives in the Verdugo Viejo neighborhood, with the mural project. She manages her studio business, Zoe Mosaics, in town.
“We’re all very, very anxious for it to open,” foundation President Paul Rabinov said of the nature center. “This is a wonderful way to recognize where we live, to honor what we’ve been blessed to have and to be able to live amongst.”
Bordered on three sides by the Angeles National Forest, the park includes woodlands running along the Verdugo Wash stream, big-cone spruce woodland in Dunsmore and Cook’s canyons and trails leading to expansive views of the Crescenta Valley and the Los Angeles basin.
“The diversity of plants and animals there is unrivaled in the region,” Maximova said. “It’s just spectacular. There’s so many trails and they go through so many different types of environments. You get so many spectacular views of the region.
“When you get that much land dedicated to wilderness, it has a vibrancy that smaller natural areas don’t have,” she continued. “When you get a bigger one, there’s just kind of a density of energy. You can just feel that it’s a stable, natural system that doesn’t need people, that has an intelligence outside of ours. It’s just something that predates and lives beyond us.”
Maximova said the project has allowed her to dive into the weeds and learn more about the park she already spends much of her spare time exploring. For example, there is a reason that a manzanita tree stands as perhaps the most prominent feature of the piece.
“In my research, I found out that Deukmejian is the world epicenter of the manzanita tree, so I used it to anchor my mural,” she explained. “It’s kind of the focal point. I used some mirrored red glass to express the shimmering nature. In the rain, manzanita tree bark is just so beautiful.
Contrasted with the bluish rich green of the leaves, it’s so beautiful. To have that kind of diversity in Glendale is exciting.”
Though the park has consistently seen around 7,000 visitors each month, the foundation anticipates that the long-awaited opening of the nature center — and the development of its programming — will attract a larger audience. The center also will include educational exhibits that focus on the surrounding ecosystem.
Supporters are encouraged to sponsor mosaic tiles, which might include names or businesses, that will be in an accompanying piece nearby. Sponsorships range from $350 to $5,000 and are offered at glendaleparksfoundation.org/deukmejian-park-mosaic-mural.
To anyone hearing Maximova reminisce about her work on the mosaic, it’s clear that the project carries an emotional weight for her.
“This is a far deeper dive into the capability of mosaics to depict realistic natural imagery,” she said. “Stained glass is so luscious, and mirroring it with cement makes it so permanent and strong and long-lasting.”