This mural beautifies the steps in the park in Gilman Square (Pearl & Medford Streets), Somerville, MA. I made it to honor the late Al Riskalla, longtime friend and owner of ABJ Auto nearby. He was beloved in our community for his years of kindness, humor and honesty, creating a safe congenial space & fixing cars affordably for those in need. The design represents the soul’s journey to enlightenment, as a series of old cars. Rainbow tire tracks lead up to the stairs.

I think it reflects his humor and attitude, giving a feeling of uplifting peace while being quietly humorous.

Cars, detail views:


This small item is on the sidewalk above the staircase:


Total size of the installation is about 45′ long by 8′ wide.

The Cars

Bottom: Old VW beetle: the kind of funky old car he kept running for people who loved them, like my friend Larry’s beetle and the one I learned to drive on. This car had a long countercultural history in the US in the 60s and 70s. I personally remember the folks who’d stop and fix each other’s bugs on the highway, and to me it represents friendly DIY old-car culture of years gone by.

Middle: Wendell’s mustard-yellow Vanagon, that lived in the front driveway of ABJ for years.

Top. A Saab 96, the kind that Al particularly liked according to his daughter Mimi. I remember a yellow one sitting in their lot forever.


New Mural in Somerville Honors Beloved Auto Mechanic
by Greg Cook (October 14, 2016) WBUR ARTery

“We kind of start out as the Beetle, which is small and ordinary, but containing the seeds of greatness,” the Somerville artist says. “Then you go through a middle period, which is [ABJ mechanic] Wendell’s old Vanagon, when you’re embroiled in life and all its confusions. Then with luck you come out the other end only by realizing you’ve been a magnificent being the entire time.”

Weird Old Cars in progress, photo by Greg Cook for WBUR
Photo by Greg Cook for WBUR ARTery

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This project was supported in part by a grant from the Somerville Arts Council,
a local agency supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.


Additional funding was procured through an Indiegogo campaign, donations still accepted.