Santa Paula, Citrus Capital of the World Mural
Across Main Street from the historic clock tower, this mural highlights a 60 year span (1880-1940) during which Santa Paula was considered the “Citrus Capital of the World.” The first panel shows Latino, Anglo, and Japanese workers harvesting lemons circa 1900. The second panel shows Nathan Blanchard, founder of the town of Santa Paula, with his first packing house in 1875. The third scene pays tribute to the thousands of hardworking Latino pickers who, for many years, have harvested citrus here. The final panel shows the significant role of women in the packing houses, including women whose families fled the “Dust Bowl” sweeping through the Great Plains in the late 1930s.
Don Gray, muralist and assisted by Jared Gray, Don’s son
Don Gray’s earliest inspirations came from the landscape of his childhood in rural northeast Oregon. He studied art at Eastern Oregon University, training his eye and hand in traditional techniques that resulted in meticulously rendered realist paintings.
After graduation in 1970, Gray taught high school art for one year, before beginning a professional art career. He exhibited widely in the Pacific Northwest, developing a regional following for his landscapes and figures. In 1978 Gray formed a partnership, Bear Wallow Publishing, with writer Rick Steber and photographer Jerry Gildemeister. Their co-creations were coffee-table style illustrated books of western history. Traces, published in 1980, documented the last surviving travelers of the Oregon Trail.
In the mid-1980s, Don Gray’s realist style began to change as he experimented with a more spontaneous approach. His current work combines the traditional with a more contemporary idiom, as exterior observation gives way to interior search. Gray describes this process as “like a random walk in the woods, with no idea where it might lead. Along the way, free association and unexpected discoveries are encouraged. The paintings become artifacts of an intuitive process, not literal representations of pre-determined ideas or images.”
Don Gray has exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the United States. He has also taught occasional workshops and college-level courses, painted indoor and outdoor murals in several states, and illustrated over twenty books. He and his wife Brenda live in Murrieta, California.