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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Labor of Love:
Artist’s talents bring new life to
Silver Lake Sea Serpent sculpture

You might say the Silver Lake Sea Serpent sculpture has got its groove back. Over the past two weeks, the sculpture has gotten a makeover — fresher, more scaly and more aquatic. It’s the work of Nichole Murtha, who spent most of Saturday working on the creature’s scales and other subtle details.

“It was deteriorating,” she said during a quick breather. “There was some sap coming out of it, and there were still spots that were shallow, you what I mean, with broken wood and stuff. So I’m just trying to do my best to put it back together and make it look good.”

Murtha brings a lot of experience to the role. Murtha, of Warsaw, is a self-taught artist and free spirit whose experience includes work as a scenic artist for Disneyworld. While there, she worked on the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge project. She moved back to the area in 2019 when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. She now operates her decorating business All Things Beautiful, and friends began tagging her on Facebook about a contest to repaint the sculpture, nicknamed “Cecil.”

The sculpture actually crafted in three separate segments was now about five years old and needed a touch-up. Murtha accepted the challenge and created a clay miniature of the sculpture, which she decorated and presented to Bridget Kelly and Joe Rivellino of The Club at Silver Lake, the property in which the sea serpent resides. They liked the work and gave her the go-ahead. She primed and prepped the sculpture on May 1, and started painting in earnest soon afterward.

“It’s like a solid week I’ve been painting, but in and out through the rain,” she said. “All brand-new colors. It was yellow and green before, and there were no really solid details. It was like yellow and green, so I was just trying to add a little bit of something to make it look more like an edgy sea-serpent.”

The sea serpent’s now a metallic purplish blue, a gold-yellow belly, scales and other subtle details. Murtha has worked with both brushes and sponges to create the effects. And they’re getting a lot of compliments.

“I think she’s just about done if not already, and it turned out better than expected when we first put out the contest for Cecil’s makeover,” Rivellino said. “He was in need of some repaint work and a touch-up, and I wanted to tweak the overall feeling of him to be a little more mysterious.” The sculpture had looked really nice in its original incarnation, but now onlookers find it dazzling.

Murtha needed to pause several times while chatting, as people stopped their cars to tell her what a nice job she was doing, and how good Cecil looks. She said the project has been like a gift to her — a chance to be creative, embarking on a unique, whimsical and colorful project.

The sea serpent hasn’t felt like work to her, she said. It might be more-described as a labor of love, and she’s considering pursing similar projects in the future, such as looking into a planned mural project in Warsaw.

“It’s amazing,” Murtha said. “Like today when I stepped back, and it was complete, it was like my vision completely to life. It was just like my model. It was pretty amazing.”

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