Lue Gim Gong is looking one way; a kid is looking the other. The Chinese immigrant came to California as a preteen later here in North Adams, Massachusetts, and worked as a laborer. Eventually, he developed horticultural techniques using cross-pollination to create a cold-resistant kind of orange that greatly impacted the agricultural industry.
The USDA and the city itself have recognized the life and Lue Gim Gong (Chinese: 呂金功, 1860-1925) for his contributions to the economy and community, and now mural artist GAIA has done the same. In 2000, seventy-five years after his death, he was recognized by the Great Floridian program for significant contributions to that state’s history and culture
Using realism and dynamic repositioning of geometries, the Baltimore-based artist transforms a North Adams Housing Authority along the so-called Ashland Street corridor. Figures and faces are within the lively composition, bringing history alive with a contemporary style of storytelling. “Valencia Oranges and Autumnal leaves surround the figures,” says the project description that GAIA sent us.
“In the intersecting shapes of the bodies emerges children from a neighboring Eclipse Mill shot by photographer Lewis Hine in 1911. Below the children, within the legs, are two scenes of women working on circuitry inside the old Sprague electric plant.”
In a project nearly hamstrung by the Covid-19 epidemic, GAIA sometimes wondered if the project would come to fruition, but he stuck to it. “This mural happened in spite of covid after a year and a half of planning and surveying!” he says.