Parish Memorial Library will look a little different when students return to classes in the fall. Many will notice a new mural adding color and character to a wall of the library’s basement.

Robbin Lou Bates 2

The University Libraries announced Robbin Lou Bates is the winner of the Parish Memorial Library Mural Competition. Bates, an MFA student in the Painting & Drawing program, will paint the mural under a Library skylight this summer, and it will be unveiled at a ceremony and reception in the fall.

The winning mural rendering is being kept under wraps until the reveal, but it will feature a roadrunner – which Bates specified in her proposal.

“I would love to paint a roadrunner, which is the New Mexico state bird and a sign of good luck and an all-around awesome specimen within a simplified to almost abstract landscape,” she wrote. “I want this mural to bring light and luck to the space. This work will not be lacking in color, this is for sure.”

“The mural is colorful, exuberant, active and really engages a contemporary experience of space,” said Raychael Stine, assistant professor and member of the selection committee. “Its shapes are quirky and particular in their translation of plant life and landscapes in the southwestern region, and the naturalistically rendered roadrunner, our New Mexico State bird, is fantastically stable and secure in its leading role.” 

Originally from Tucson, Ariz., Bates’ work directly deals with the desert, mostly the Sonoran Desert. She says different aspects of the landscape reveal themselves in her work.

“I am interested in all life forms that inhabit deserts,” she said. “More recently, I have explored ways to abstract and simplify the shapes I grew up seeing on a regular basis, such as mountains and cactus. I explore ways of creating new landscapes with these forms as well as with shapes and color.”

Her use of color was one of the things that caught the eyes of the mural selection committee. The group consisted of faculty and staff from the College of Fine Arts, and the library: Associate Professor Todd Quinn, Assistant Professor Stephanie Beene, Jonathan Hartshorn, and Nancy Bennett.

“One of the goals of this competition was to brighten our spaces and make them more inviting and inspiring for the students who work here, while also promoting the work of our UNM student artists,” Quinn said. “Bates’ mural proposal definitely meets this criterion.”

Quinn led the committee and submission process and plans to make this an annual contest for other walls in Parish – since the contest is for impermanent murals with a minimum lifespan of three years.

Work on the mural will begin in July and is expected to be completed before the fall semester, with a reception and reveal in September. Throughout the summer, progress on the mural will be shared on University Libraries social media sites.  

Funding for the project is provided by the William J. Parish Endowment.