tampabay.com

Artist finishing last U.S. mural

Wyland is known for depictions of marine life. His next work will be in Beijing.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published February 11, 2007


KEY LARGO - Marine life artist Wyland, who has painted 94 huge murals around the world to promote ocean conservation, is set to complete Monday what he says is his final U.S. wall painting.

A panoramic 7,500-square-foot representation of the living coral reef that rests off the Keys, the mural wraps around a four-story, four-sided building in the median of the Overseas Highway that bisects Key Largo.

"It's the gateway to the Florida Keys," said Wyland, whose name is legally one word. "The idea is to welcome people with a depiction of the sun, taking them above and below the surface to see the tremendous abundance of marine life and color."

Wyland has spent more than 20 years diving in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. He credits the Keys reef, the only contiguous coral expanse in North America, for inspiring his work.

The completed mural is to feature islands, manatees, manta rays, coral and indigenous fish. It will also feature bottlenose dolphins, in honor of a stranded pregnant dolphin and her unborn calf currently being treated at a Key Largo marine mammal rehabilitation center.

Wyland's murals are designed to motivate environmental awareness and stewardship, particularly in children.

"Once nature grabs you, it doesn't let go and it grabbed me early," said Wyland, who began the Key Largo wall Feb. 1.

Wyland, who began painting the murals dubbed "Whaling Walls" in 1981, plans to continue his series internationally until he has completed 100 murals. He says the Keys mural will be the last one he paints in the United States.

He intends to paint his last mural, projected to be more than 2 miles long, in Beijing before the 2008 summer Olympics.