Loretta Lizzio painted a mural of Jacinda Ardern on a Brunswick silo. Picture: Loretta Lizzio
Loretta Lizzio painted a mural of Jacinda Ardern on a Brunswick silo. Picture: Loretta Lizzio

Jacinda Ardern mural artist hits back at hate

Eighteen metres above the ground in Melbourne's north, a giant Jacinda Ardern wraps her arms around a woman in need of comfort.

The mural on a silo at Tinning Street in Brunswick took nine days to paint - from sun up to sun down - as well as 25 litres of paint and it took its toll physically on artist Loretta Lizzio.

"My body is broken," the 32-year-old told news.com.au from her home on the sunny Gold Coast.

Her arms ache from the constant sweeping motion and her back is stiff from bending down to lift four litre cans all day long.

But looking back at what she's achieved, her heart is full.

Partly because the image of the New Zealand Prime Minister dressed in a headscarf and hugging a grieving Muslim woman after the Christchurch massacre means so much to her.

 

 

The project took nine days to complete. Picture: Loretta Lizzio
The project took nine days to complete. Picture: Loretta Lizzio

"When I first saw that picture, I thought 'what a beautiful moment in such a terrible tragedy'," she said.

"I thought about how genuine Jacinda looked. I love painting strong female figures so (when I was approached for this) I instantly thought, 'Yes!'."

The artwork towers over the suburb 4km from the Melbourne CBD but not everybody is supportive.

Critics have been vocal about their opposition to the mural. They've asked her why she painted a moment that was not Australia's to celebrate.

To that, her response is simple and unequivocal.

"It's like, f***. What is wrong with you people?! It was an Australian man that did this," she said, referring to accused terrorist Brenton Tarrant who livestreamed the attack that left 50 worshippers dead.

"So if a message of love can be sent to Australia, then that's great."

Lizzio said she was shocked by the backlash to a piece of art she hoped would "send a message of love and acceptance".

Loretta Lizzio was shocked by some of the backlash to the artwork. Picture: Loretta Lizzio
Loretta Lizzio was shocked by some of the backlash to the artwork. Picture: Loretta Lizzio

Instead, she said it became a target for some to sprout their racist views.

"There's so many people out there who treat other people like shit because they don't understand their background, or where they come from," Lizzio told news.com.au.

"They should feel like they can walk down the street and not feel like they're looked down upon. No matter who they are.

"People say to me, 'What about Sri Lanka?' Or, 'What about the Christians? Where's their mural.' Well, go crowdfund for it."

The idea for the project came about after residents of a building opposite the silo shared their grief over the massacre on a communal chalkboard.

Lizzio had painted a smaller piece there three years earlier and when a resident approached her she jumped at the chance.

First, organisers needed permission. So they went to the owner of the silo who was more than happy to get on board. They needed to raise some money for the project, too, and a crowdfunding project quickly took care of that.

Loretta Lizzio finished mural. Picture: Loretta Lizzio
Loretta Lizzio finished mural. Picture: Loretta Lizzio

 

Loretta Lizzio studies the original photograph. Picture: Loretta Lizzio
Loretta Lizzio studies the original photograph. Picture: Loretta Lizzio

Lizzio and her partner, who welcomed their first child seven months ago, travelled to Melbourne for the project.

On day one, they quickly realised they would be up against the elements. Rain came quickly and meant they could only work half that day. But thankfully it stayed away for the remainder of the project.

With the help of her partner, Lizzio sectioned the silo and printed the artwork. She used a spirit level to make sure the lines were straight from every angle and then she went to work.

She spent all day on a hired boom, eating her prepared lunch up there and staring at the curved wall.

When she came down and spoke to people, she admits she studied the colours and shades on their faces.

She says she hopes Ms Ardern sees the mural and likes it, but that was never her goal.

She just wanted to paint something she was passionate about and do justice to the original moment.

People who walk past and stare up at the mural in Brunswick - one of Melbourne's most multicultural suburbs - will agree she's done just that.

@ro_smith | rohan.smith1@news.com.au



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