Here comes the sun: New La Jolla mural graces Empress Hotel


The Murals of La Jolla public art project has a new and innovative addition in “Suns,” which was installed on the Empress Hotel at 7766 Fay Ave. on March 6.

“It’s exciting to have two important artists of our time collaborating on a creation for La Jolla,” said Lynda Forsha, Murals of La Jolla curator. “The mural is experimental and the image is very powerful and dynamic. It is a great addition to this collection.”

Created by New York-based artist Byron Kim and San Diego-based artist Victoria Fu, the mural appears to depict a sunset, but upon further inspection, reveals more.

“The piece is called ‘Suns’ and looks like a solar flare or something out of the norm, so it requires some visual decoding,” Fu said. “When you look at the colors in the sky, you realize it’s not just a photo of a sunset. There is richness, if people look at it longer.”

The image began as a photo taken by Fu of the La Jolla skyline after the sun went down, from the vantage point of what would become the mural’s home — the Empress Hotel. “It’s the view from the window,” she said. “I took several pictures that day, and the photography I’ve been doing lately is much more abstract, so to take an image of the sky or a sunset isn’t something I would have done.”

Pleased with her shot, Fu sent the photo cross-country to longtime friend and first-time collaborator Kim in New York, who said he pinned it to the wall of his studio to study it.

“A sunset is such a typical image, and we didn’t want a corny/clichéd tourist image for our mural. We wanted to make a new thing by adding our process,” Kim said. “The sun had already set in Victoria’s photo, so I took a bright lamp in my studio shone the light at the photo, and the glare from the lamp looked like a sun, so I took a picture of her picture on my wall.”

The title “Suns” is meant to suggest that there are multiple suns in the picture — the real sun you don’t see that created the colorful sky and the fake sun you see. “It just came to me once I saw the photo,” Kim said. “I really wanted it to be about light and the digital photo process. And that particular spot in La Jolla was the perfect place for it.”

He added that as a La Jolla Country Day School graduate, he’s excited to have his art displayed in his hometown. “Some might see a beautiful sunset, or a corny sunset, but I think most people will walk by it and see something nice. But if you stop and really look at it, you’ll see the sun doesn’t really look like a sun, it’s beyond seeing a pretty thing, that’s not art. It’s when you stop to think about it that it becomes art.”

Echoing his point, Fu added, “I wanted something that works at first glance, even for a millisecond; viewers can enjoy it for that second, but if they look at the image a little longer, they see there is so much more there.”

Both artists derivate from their standard media for this project. While Fu dabbles in photography, she is known for her videography and film installations.

Kim, who began his artistic career as a poet, said he found that monochromatic or dichromatic painting was a way to create visual poetry. After years of discussing a collaboration, the two looked forward to working together for the Murals of La Jolla project and going outside their comfort zones.

“It was a 50/50 effort to conceive and form an idea. I took pictures in La Jolla. He took a photo of the photo. We both took a single shot and manipulated it,” Fu said. “What I love about collaborations is that they push you. The project might be in the realm of what you normally do, but there is an added perimeter that keeps you going at a rapid pace.”