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Artists transform traffic boxes in Lodi

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Posted: Friday, May 17, 2013 12:00 am

Patti Wallace stood on a busy street corner at Pine Street and Cherokee Lane, a brush dripping with brown paint in her hand. She hemmed and hawed, looking for the right angle to apply a nose to the face she was creating on the side of a traffic control signal box on the sidewalk. A dropcloth taped around the base of the box protected the sidewalk, and a line sketch of her design was lightly penciled in on its surface.

"I try not to work when it's real hot out," she said. "On these metal boxes, the paint dries faster than I can get it on there."

Wallace is working on one of six traffic box murals planned around Lodi. Funds from Art in Public Places, a local group dedicated to bringing more are into the community, provided $100 per box to pay for paint and the artist's time.

Wallace is responsible for the art on three boxes: one at Pine Street and Cherokee Lane, one at Hale Road and Cherokee, and another at the Costco corner at Reynold's Ranch Parkway.

She is employed as an art therapist, and often uses magazine collage projects in her sessions. Her traffic box design for Pine Street is a combination collage of faces and flowers. Koi fish swimming in a shimmering pond cover the finished box on Hale Road. And the box near Costco is destined to be coated in a rooster design after Wallace completes the Pine Street collage.

Dario Gonzales and Brittany Pudwell will paint grapeand wine-themed designs on two other boxes, one located at Turner and Lower Sacramento roads, and the other at Lodi Avenue and Lower Sacramento Road.

Gonzales has had a few paintings displayed in restuarants around town. This will be his first mural effort. The pair have planned a view of Lodi Lake, and a collage of grapes, wine glasses and bottles.

Pudwell and Gonzales will start their projects this weekend. But Wallace has gotten a head start.

The painting process takes a few days. First, Wallace sanded down the metal so the paint would apply evenly. She put a coat of white primer on the box and let it dry overnight, but the side was covered in graffiti before she could return to begin sketching her design.

But an extra coat of primer fixed the problem, and flowers and faces are blooming.

"People come by when I'm painting, and tell me what a nice thing it is that we're painting in this part of Lodi. They say there's not too many beautiful things here," she said.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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