By Carrie Reierson
Maintenance man. Artist. Normally, people are either one or the other. In the case of Ed Kane, both roles apply.
While Kane spends much of his time doing part-time maintenance work for buildings on Garfield Street and Trinity Lutheran Church, he is also a landscape artist and muralist.
Kane had always dabbled in sketches and drawing, but only seriously began to devote time to his artistic side in 1995, when he moved to the Parkland area. Despite having no formal artistic training other than a few high school art classes, he started out big – with murals.
Kane has painted murals in a few different places along Garfield Street, both inside and out of the many small local businesses that have come and gone over the years.
While a few of his murals have disappeared or changed along with the buildings that once housed them, some of them are still around. These murals can be seen outside on the street, in the bar at Reyna’s Mexican Restaurant, or even in the bathroom at Northern Pacific Coffee Company.
The murals that have disappeared due to renovations or other developments on Garfield Street are preserved in prints that Kane has kept over the years. These lost murals include his tribute to 9/11, entitled “Sleeping Giant,” and his mural depicting the Chicago skyline at sunset that once graced the walls of a coffee shop as a tribute to the owner’s father.
To create a mural, Kane avoids worrying about getting it right the first time. Instead, he just starts in.
When Kane began, he was using nothing more than exterior house paint for his art. Later, he would invest in what he referred to as “real paints,” when he began to paint on a smaller scale. As it turns out, Kane prefers painting landscapes over murals.
Kane has produced many painted landscapes depicting the mountains and forests of the Pacific Northwest. Mt. Rainier is a prominent feature time and time again. Most of these paintings were inspired by Kane’s experiences as an employee at Crystal Mountain ski resort for four years between 1995 and 2001.
“Alpine landscapes are basically my forte,” said Kane as he unveiled painting after painting of snow-capped peaks, mountain valleys, forests, and hills dotted with wildflowers that were hidden away in a corner of his apartment on Garfield Street.
His landscapes are purely landscapes. Only one featured an animal, a lone bird perched on a stump. Other than that, he lets his landscapes stand on their own.
“Once you put an animal in there, I feel like it’s an intrusion,” said Kane.
If Kane has extra paint lying around, he doesn’t let it go to waste. Instead, he creates abstract works of art from the leftovers. He fills buckets or cups with paint, waits for it to dry, and lifts out the resulting shapes and forms which he then combines to make textured, dimensional, abstract paintings.
Once, Kane created an abstract piece of art from an old television set that was covered in dust. He splattered paint on the screen, coloring the layer of dust that had collected there, creating a landscape.
He displayed this particular piece publicly, which may have been a mistake. Kane recalled, cringing slightly, the story of the man who looked at the TV, reached up, and wiped away the carefully painted dust in one swipe.
Kane’s paintings have been featured at Northern Pacific Coffee Company and street fairs on Garfield. Kane admitted he’s never really been one to market himself.
“Art is so personal. How do you put a price on something like that?” Kane said.
Unfortunately, the mural business is no longer booming. The recent economic downturn has caused small businesses to place art last on their list of priorities. “Nobody really wants to invest in something like murals anymore,” said Kane.
Luckily for locals, some of his artwork can still be seen on Garfield Street. You just have to know where to look.