ABOVE: Starkweather paints interpretation of "Starry Night on the Rone."
After a highly-publicized and contentious start, Mount Dora’s sprawling blue mural, an interpretation of Vincent van Gogh’s masterpiece “Starry Night,” is nearing completion as its deadline looms. After a legal settlement, the mural was allowed to stay and the homeowners agreed to finish it by January.
The newly painted sections of the project, including the front of the house, highlight the talent of professional muralist and artist, Joe Starkweather, who also revised some of the original portions. The homeowners also chose a different painting, van Gogh’s “Starry Night on the Rhone,” for the inspiration of the front of the house.
“With such a large project and so many talented artists in the area, we thought it would be wonderful to showcase and support more than one,” said homeowner Lubek Jastrzebski of their decision to bring in another artist for the second phase which will be completed before the deadline.
Starkweather works surprisingly fast using specific artist-grade mural paints to achieve his more refined style. At the request of the homeowners, Starkweather also removed the prominent face from the wall and replaced it with elements from of the original Starry Night painting.
"It has been enjoyable and an honor to play my part in the completion of the house," said Starkweather who owns Works of Stark, an art and design company. "I have always loved and studied the strokes and the motion van Gogh uses in his work, so mimicking it came pretty natural. I pride myself in being able to paint a wide variety of styles when it comes to murals."
Starkweather has created murals across Florida, ranging from large corporate projects to smaller murals on private residences.
“Joe has such an impressive body of professional mural work, we were thrilled when he agreed to bring his own style to the project,” said Nancy Nemhauser, Lubek’s wife. “As a family, we’ve really enjoyed watching his art take shape. He’s very talented.”
The saga of the Starry Night mural began in July, 2017, when the homeowners, Lubek Jastrzebski and his wife Nancy Nemhauser, contracted a local artist to paint their exterior wall with her adult autistic son’s favorite painting. The idea was that it would serve as a beacon if he wandered off, as is a common behavior with people with autism. Hopefully, he would be able to communicate that he lived “at the van Gogh house” and would be returned home.
ABOVE: Homeowner Jastrzebski (center) with son, Chip, (left) and Starkweather (right).
Although the city had no code regulating residential murals, the city’s code enforcement officer cited the homeowners for a graffiti violation. Later the city advised that the wall had to match the house, so the couple complied by extending the mural onto the house. The city placed a lien on the house and the homeowners sued the CIty of Mount Dora for violating their constitutional rights. In a July, 2018 legal settlement, the city apologized and allowed the mural to remain.
The mural has quickly become a local landmark and attraction with visitors arriving throughout the day to snap selfies with the oversize painting. The back of the mural can be seen along Old Highway 441 just west of downtown, and the front can be viewed at the end of Sixth Avenue. For more news and events in Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, click here. Free subscriptions to the monthly issue of Mount Dora Buzz are available here.