A new wall mural of Gabby Petito on Long Island captures your attention as soon as you see the vibrant colors and sharp blue eyes that take up a wall in the downtown area where the young smiling woman grew up.
Located on Montauk Highway in Blue Point, in Suffolk County, the mural is a message of healing to the family and to victims of domestic violence from local muralist Tess Parker.
Painting in times of pain is nothing new for Parker, age 30, of East Islip.
An art therapist, as well as a painter, she has spent years putting paint on a brush to offer healing to hundreds over the years.
"I grew up in the same area as Gabby and knew I wanted to do something to help her family and the locals heal," Parker said.
But creating a mural that was "just right" made Parker nervous, but didn't deter her from her vision of healing, even for herself.
From the beginning of the hopeful project, everything seemed to just fall into place, Parker said.
From finding the right wall to getting the owner to let her paint it, to finding a stucco company to smooth out the surface.
After finding "the wall," Parker walked inside the owner's business (a local attorney) and asked if they would consider letting her paint the mural.
"She said yes right away," Parker said. "But, the wall had a heavy stucco finish that was too rough to paint on."
After posting online about the problem, within minutes she had a local stucco company say they would come and smooth out the area and that's just what they did.
"It's been an incredible experience from the beginning," said Parker who was nervous from her first stroke about whether the family would approve of the finished painting.
"Her family has been very supportive, but I wanted it to really look like Gabby and remind people of her and of those who suffer from domestic violence daily," she added.
While painting, to capture the "vibe" of Gabby who was killed by strangulation while on a road trip with her boyfriend the now deceased Brian Laundrie, Parker said she listened to the Beatles music because Gabby loved their tunes.
The words and the music soothed her as she painted, especially on Gabby's face: "I wanted it to be perfect," the sparkling blue eyes, the shining smile.
She also used Gabby's own artwork in the wings to help bring her spirit to life.
Since finishing the mural, Parker has gotten great feedback from the community and from the family. Gabby's father posted on Instagram he loved it.
Now that it's done, what Parker really hopes is that people out there suffering from abuse will get help, and not be afraid to do so or speak out about it.
"The loss of Gabby was a complete tragedy and I hope my work will help those suffering in some way."
The mural is located just east of Nichols Road on the wall of the building in the Mazzei & Blair Plaza in Blue Point.
Parker's work can be found at www.therapeuticmurals.com.
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