Iconic art brightens walls, spirits

June 18th, 2015 6:24 pm - updated: 6:24 pm.

First Posted: 1/17/2014

He’s already painted an image of the Statue of Liberty, a bald eagle and the historic aircraft carrier USS Intrepid on the wall at North Penn Manor, an assisted-living facility in Wilkes-Barre.

Jason Garcia’s patriotic medley includes re-creations of the iconic photos of the Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima and of the sailor dipping a nurse backward into a kiss at the end of World War II.

On a recent Friday afternoon the young artist worked on a few additional touches, including the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and Philadelphia’s City Hall, complete with a statue of William Penn on top.

“It’s wonderful,” North Penn Manor resident Jane Oster, 65, said as she watched Garcia work.

Praising his realism, she added, “I used to live in Philadelphia.”

North Penn owner Judy Lee said there are many reasons to admire Garcia’s murals, which the 22-year-old student continues to paint during breaks from Mansfield University.

Not only is his work eye-catching, Lee said, but “he is so good with our residents. They love to watch him work. It’s like having another activity. He even plays the piano for them. He’s a really good kid.”

Garcia’s work can be seen all over North Penn Manor. His patriotic medley/salute to the military brightens the community room, a lighthouse beckons behind the main desk, and a hallway is covered with a jungle of painted green leaves in which Garcia has hidden the occasional frog or butterfly.

“The guy’s brilliant,” 86-year-old Richard Hanellin said as he walked down the hallway toward the cafeteria.

Enter that cafeteria and Garcia’s artwork will almost convince you you’re in a 1950s diner, complete with “Love Me Tender” and “Jailhouse Rock” in the jukebox and old-time prices on a menu.

“I could go for some 10-cent rice pudding,” Garcia said with a chuckle, adding that sometimes people have told him the pictures on the wall make them feel ready to order a cheeseburger and fries for 30 cents or a hot dog for 20 cents.

Along with pictures easily recognizable as a sailboat or a barn, Garcia has added some symbolic images to the North Penn Manor collection, including a generously boughed tree of life held in a steady pair of hands.

Who is holding the tree? It’s open to interpretation but, Garcia said, “I prefer to think of them as God’s hands.”