Almost every day, senior Alaina Kiesel wears a combination of two sun and moon necklaces. This piece of her will soon be translated onto a mural she is painting on a wall in Zenitry — a yoga studio at Timberline Station.
“I just feel really connected to the sun and moon,” Kiesel said. “I find myself looking up all the time and they’re just beautiful. I feel like if I was sitting over there laying in shavasana or a tree pose that I would want something beautiful to look at and make me feel good as I’m doing my practice.”
After taking classes from Zenitry owner Cristine “Cricket” Foster since her freshman year, Kiesel developed a bond through their love of yoga. Then last fall, Foster approached her after class asking her to paint the mural.
Though Kiesel paints here and there, this is the largest thing she’s ever painted at once. At first she was intimidated, but Foster gave her free creative control, telling her to “paint what makes your heart sing.”
“We decided the space needed some artwork and we thought that involving an Elon University student in the artwork would be a really good idea,” Foster said. “We’re constantly working on finding ways of making connections on campus and letting people know that we’re here.”
Her biggest struggle was drawing up the initial sketch. First Kiesel came up with a few different designs, but was drawn toward the sun and the moon.
Senior Alaina Kiesel applies a 2nd base coat to the sun apart of her mural for Zenitry. Photo by Maritza Gonzalez, Staff Photographer.
Foster believes it provides a sense of duality.
“We try to stay very religiously neutral because we are in the Bible Belt,” Foster said. “We wanted to make sure it encompasses and welcomes everybody regardless of what their religious practice was.”
Worried about it not being just right, Kiesel spent hours over Winter Term coming into the studio, erasing and resketching the mural.
But once she was fairly happy with the drawing — despite it not being perfectly symmetrical — Kiesel was able to get to painting, a medium she is more comfortable with. She said she finds this part more meditative.
Currently, Kiesel has painted the base coats of both the sun and the moon, which have taken her about four hours each. Her next step will be adding mandala-esque designs on top, creating a connection between the two.
“I spent a month in India,” Kiesel said. “I think I drew inspiration from a lot of textiles and jewels I always saw there that I really loved. I just want them to be connecting beautifully and kind of interwoven.”
Foster liked the idea of a mural because a new mural can be painted over it, adding a new image and energy to the space.
“We want to keep our options open and have a new student come in every couple of years and paint a new one,” Foster said. “We felt like that was a nice way of having a piece of permanent art on the wall, temporarily.”
Within the next six months, she wants to have an additional mural painted on another wall: an elephant created with the soft silver and gold of flash tattoos. Foster is planning on making it a community mural, where anyone can come by and paint a piece of it.
Even though her mural isn’t complete yet, Kiesel has already gotten good feedback from various teachers as they enter the studio. One teacher posted herself in front of it doing PiYo [Pilates-Yoga] on her Instagram saying, “Hello, beautiful sunshine.”
The mural has also been incorporated in one of the classes Kiesel took as the teacher used it as a cue telling students to turn themselves around and “face that big beautiful sun.”
“I think it being a part of classes excites me, and just being satisfied with it as an artist will be a big accomplishment for me,” Kiesel said.
Though she will be graduating shortly, Kiesel still likes the idea of leaving something behind.”
“I’m sure I’ll come back here at some point in my life— or especially just visiting Elon — but for me I think it’ll be more just knowing that I’ve got something here,” Kiesel said. “I think it’ll just be nice having made my mark here not just on Elon’s campus but around it as well.”