To create the brightly colored textile that cloaks a three-level staircase on the Appalachian State University campus, artists Jessie Unterhalter and Katey Truhn (previously) imagined the concrete steps as a massive loom. They drew grids on the outdoor structure to map out where each individual strip would start, end, and intersect with the larger geometric forms. “There was a lot of math involved, getting the angles and perspective right was a challenge but eventually everything locked into place,” the Baltimore-based duo, who are known as Jessie and Katey, shares with Colossal.
Evoking the quilts and other textiles that are traditional to Appalachia, the large-scale artwork is composed of vivid gradients layered into a complex web of stripes and woven patches. Neutral-toned tassels line the angled edge at the bottom of the staircase, giving the flat mural the appearance of a rug.
This public artwork is just one Jessie and Katey have undertaken in recent months. Many of their projects that were postponed due to COVID-19 are reconvening, bringing the pair to Las Vegas, Washington D.C., and a few spots in North Carolina. Although the actual painting process is solitary, Jessie and Katey say they’ve enjoyed seeing how people are experiencing outdoor art since the onset of the pandemic. “It’s really rewarding watching the work get embraced by the public. People get really creative with it, and murals end up becoming a part of the community,” they say.