There is an ancient Chinese tale about a huge school of beautiful golden koi that swam upstream in the Yellow River of China. This school came upon a waterfall at the end of the river. Some koi turned back and let the current take them back down the river. But there were 100 koi that wanted to keep going. They leaped from the river and attempted to reach the top of the waterfall with no success. The koi got the attention of demons who laughed at the jumping koi and out of hostility, made the waterfall taller and more powerful. One by one each koi gave up and let their body flow into the current of the Yellow River. But there was one koi that was determined and finally reached to top of the waterfall. The gods praised this koi for its perseverance and turned it into a dragon, a symbol of power and strength.
This koi tale is a story that Maren Conrad tells when explaining her inspiration for the 11K square foot mural she has been commissioned to paint at the MARRS building downtown for the Wide Open Walls festival on this coming Sunday, August 20.
This koi tale is also her story.
In grade school, Maren found that she was dyslexic and it caused some apprehension as a child. But as children do, she found a place to escape that apprehension and that was in her world of drawings.
“When I was drawing, I felt confident,” says Maren.
She pursued her art further and worked to obtain her art degree. Later, she gave birth to her son and after that stopped painting all together. But, with art in her heart, it remained in her life. When her son started attending school, she noticed the lack of art programs for children and spread her love of art by teaching.
But then, her own waterfall presented itself. Jane, a fellow artist, offered to share her artist studio with Maren as a way to keep each other company while still creating their art. Like gym buddies, Jane and Maren would promise to meet each other at the studio to paint.
When other budding artists would give up and go downstream like the koi in the story, Maren was the special one who took every opportunity to climb her artist’s waterfall. She and Jane showed their pieces at an art show and she jumped on an opportunity for another. One art show after another, Maren’s artwork sold and her own brand grew.
The gods have rewarded Maren to transform into a dragon with the impressive commission on the MARRS building. Fifteen other artists were bidding for that space and just like the mighty koi that became a dragon, Maren “fought for it.”
Her mural will be a beautiful and imposing piece of art on the downtown Sacramento landscape when done. It faces the railroad tracks between 19th and 20th street which were built by Chinese immigrants and were essential in the growth of Sacramento and California.
She is painting koi fish in honor of the Chinese immigrants.
When you tell her that the koi story is her story, she says the koi story is just like the Wide Open Walls story.
We have all have to work hard to make something big happen.
See Maren Conrad’s mural at the MARRS building located at 1050 20th St Sacramento.