Brick by Brick

Mural

Many of us are city dwellers, creatures of an urban habitat. We walk along paths made of concrete and drive over trails paved in asphalt – our way lit by electric lights that have replaced the stars our ancestors used to lead them home.

Instead of the trance-inducing hum of crickets, we fall asleep to the white-noise static of traffic and the shrill blast of a train whistle piercing the night. In place of the voice of a storyteller and the warmth of a fire, we watch high-definition reruns and reality TV in climate-controlled homes.

There’s precious little mystery and magic left in our modern world. No wondering what lurks beyond the tree line, and very few chills remain to run down our spines when a chorus of howls rises out of the darkness under a harvest moon.

But, if we seek them out, there are still places where we can step away from our everyday lives and see something that opens our mind’s eye; sparking the smoldering sense of excitement that flames up when we perceive a world that’s been hidden beyond the radar of our senses.

You can find such a place behind the Majestic Building and the Plains Hotel.

There’s no campfire here, but there is a story being told. Not in words, but in paint on an old brick wall; not unlike the tales told by brushstrokes in ancient caves, inviting us to gaze at the images until they seem to shimmer and move.

Towering over us on this particular wall in downtown Cheyenne is that great-plains chieftain, the bison; above him the hawk, below him the fish, and winding around them, the snake. But, this isn’t an ordinary view of the Wyoming prairie, it’s a straight shot of visual adrenaline to your cerebral cortex.

Our bison is plucking the strings of a guitar, his hat levitating off his head while he crosses this brick stage like a Western Chuck Berry. What’s he playing? What do you hear? The trembling, plaintive wail of a B.B. King solo? The gritty, whisky-soaked acoustic twang of a Delta blues classic? Maybe the lonely-road melody of a timeless country ballad.

Do you feel the wind moving underneath the hawk’s wings as he rides the thermals, or the warmth of the setting sun as it falls out of the sky behind those shadow-blue peaks?

Slowly, the hum of traffic on I-80 fades away, the calendar and the to-do lists fall by the wayside, and you drift into these images. The gears of your mind engage, begin to turn, and that ancient imagination engine is rumbling and running on all cylinders.

You’re still in downtown Cheyenne, but now you’re traveling to a different place.

The man in the passenger seat for this journey is Jordan Dean, Warehouse Twenty One’s Creative Director and newly-minted mural artist. He may hold the map, but you hold the keys and your daydreams are steering the wheel.

His color-drenched portrait of a fantastical Wyoming is a visual road trip to a place where verisimilitude is a rubber band-like thing that shifts and dances, heightening our senses and urging us to view our day-to-day world with the gossamer veil of reality pulled back.

This isn’t a wish-you-were-here 3×5-inch postcard, it’s a six story-tall freeway for your imagination with all lanes open and no speed limit – a chance to see a high-plains fever dream of color, shape, shadow, and light.

It’s a come-as-you-are invitation to visit a Wyoming that exists only in layers of paint on weathered brick. An opportunity to step off the well-worn path of the everyday and see what lies in the twilight places where the make-believe world has every ounce of substance you wish to give it.

If you find yourself wandering near the alley tucked behind the Majestic Building and the Plains Hotel, take a slight detour and let Jordan’s vision of Wyoming introduce you to the sense of wonder you may have lost, or forgotten, along the way to the office, the store, or the drive-thru.

There are still small corners of the world where magic exists and dreams pull at the threads of reality, and one of them happens to be in Cheyenne.

By Todd Johns