Her name is Clara. She’ll be a familiar face in downtown West Palm Beach for at least the next year, greeting passerby on the sidewalk along the east side of Flagler Drive where it curves beneath the Royal Park Bridge.
And when you see her, appreciate the ordeal she went through to get to her perch on the cracked concrete wall where the pigeons roost and just above the lapping tide of the Intracoastal Waterway.
Actually, her creator – artist Sean Yoro, who goes by Hula and specializes in hyperrealstic portraits of women — is the one who suffered.
Vandals smashed a beer bottle across Clara’s face late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, forcing Yoro to wrap his bare feet in cellophane tape for protection from the broken glass that he discovered on the scaffolding and in the water below the mural when he arrived at 5 a.m. Sunday to finish.
Sometime between Thursday night and early Friday morning, thieves stole Yoro’s paint supplies and the photographs he used as a painting guide. He wasn’t able to resume work until late Friday and early Saturday, after he got new paint supplies.
And to replace the large 11-by-14 laminated photographs of Clara, he used some more of that cellophane packing tape to fasten his iPhone – with the same Clara photograph on the screen – to his wrist to guide his final two days of painting.
Other than that — and the pigeons swooping past his face and the crabs crawling around his feet– the two-week project under the bridge was a breeze.
At least the outdoor working conditions beat his last project. Last month, Yoro put on a drysuit, paddled-boarded out into the chilly waters of Iceland and painted a woman’s face across eight feet of an iceberg.
When Yoro came to West Palm Beach late last month to scout locations for Clara, he said he was sick with a fever, no thanks to the cold temps late last month in Iceland.
But West Palm Beach and its warmer-than-usual temperatures for this month were bonuses for Yoro, who grew up in Hawaii.
He scouted locations in West Palm Beach aboard a paddle board while holding a long stick, which he poked into the water to figure out the water depth. His original plan was the paint a wall of the Royal Park Bridge in the middle of the channel in the Intracoastal, closer to the drawbridge spans.
But he couldn’t permission for that, so he settled on the bridge wall closest to the sidewalk.
The day before he arrived in West Palm Beach to start painting, he was in New York photographing the real Clara – a model and friend. He had measured the space beneath the bridge on his scouting visit.
So, in his Brooklyn studio, he had Clara pose under a cardboard box with her left arm over her head and her right arm resting against the side.
In Yoro’s finished mural, Clara appears to rise out of the water and hold up the bridge. The water, depending on the tide, rises up her chest toward shoulders and then down.
She appears to be nude, but the mural’s lowest point ends well above her breasts.
As he painted, Yoro made dozens of friends — from students to fishermen to joggers, all watching him climb in his bare feet over the railing, into the water and up two extension ladders to a makeshift scaffold made of a long piece of wood.
(The tops of the ladders were bolted into the concrete beneath the bridge, he said, just as he bolted ladders into the iceberg in his last project.)
He said at least 10 strangers who happened upon him in the first week under the bridge returned nearly every day to follow his progress. Many are are now on a first-name basis with him, having exchanged text messages with him to know his schedule.
It apparently paid off. Yoro said he was informed Sunday that his mural was selected as most popular of the 20 Canvas works in interactive voting.
He said he will give the mural a formal name some time today.
Yoro leaves West Palm Beach this afternoon. He plans to rest up before painting his next portrait – in New Zealand.
He wants to return to West Palm Beach next year to check on Clara. He said he might even bring the real Clara.
“I want to see how she ages in the elements.’’
You can follow Yoro on Instagram via @the_hula.