After painting it nearly half a century ago, artist Caryl Yasko went back to the southwest of Chicago to restore her iconic mural Lemont Quarry Workers.
The artwork, also referred to as The Stonecutters, was painted to honour the work of the limestone workers in the 19th century, many of whom were immigrants.
Since then the mural has been a major tourist attraction for the Chicago suburb of Lemont.
The buff-colorured dolomite limestone sourced from the suburb itself physically and economically laid the foundations of the town, going on to form the foundations of some Chicago architectural landmarks.
These included the Water Tower, the Pumping Station, and Holy Name Cathedral.
Yasko was one of the first female artists commissioned to paint their own mural, starting off her collection in 1972 with her mural Under City Stone on the 55th street underpass in Hyde Park.
Since that initial mural, she has gone to paint five more murals within the city of Chicago, making her one of the only artists to have long-standing outdoor murals.
When reflecting back on the origins of The Stonecutters in the mural’s initial sketches, Yasko envisioned having the workers levering and splitting blocks of stone into an open pit.
In addition, the mural also included emphasising the area’s waterways and spires of the stone-built churches.
A former quarry worker posed for her, and she later used that image to become the model for the primary worker within the mural.
One aspect of the mural that does slightly deviate from reality was the inclusion of a woman, given that fact back then there were no women workers on quarries.
The reason for this inclusion, however, was to acknowledge that even though women didn’t participate in quarrying, they did play an important role in building the foundations of Lemont.
In 2021, there are no working quarries in Lemont; the former sites have instead been transformed into lakes.
However due to the longevity of Yasko’s work, Lemont will always have an acknowledgement of its quarrying past.
By Atara Thenabadu