Christine Palmer-Persen’s face glowed with pride on Sunday as she stood in front of the heart-warming mural across from the Sheepshead Bay train station, lovingly painted by her late sister, Faith, to salute the serene waterfront community.
The occasion was a bittersweet one for the slender blonde who traveled from California for the memorial organized by the Bay Improvement Group, which commissioned Palmer-Persen in the early 1990s to paint the 120-foot eye-pleaser on E. 15th St. between Avenue Z and Sheepshead Bay Road, in collaboration with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Arts for Transit program.
The masterpiece took more than a year to paint, boasts 30 separate panels and depicts a summer’s day in the life of Sheepshead Bay-ers, some of them actual community residents, others cavorting in front of the world-famous Lundy Bros. Restaurant on Emmons Avenue, culled from the artist’s imagination.
“Faith will be in our hearts forever, she touched us all,” said Steve Barrison, president of the grassroots group, who had the mural painted to help create links to neighborhoods through art, and to support well-established artists and emerging ones, such as Palmer-Persen, whose work had also been exhibited by the Audubon Society.
Barrison invoked cheers and tears when he presented Christine Palmer-Persen with a plaque to honor the life and work of her sibling, who lost her battle with cancer just before New Year’s Eve last year at the age of 48, leaving behind a paintbox of memories for Sheepshead Bay folk.
The artist, who worked for Block Data Systems by day as an Operations and Marketing manager, also liked to tickle the funny bone: She painted a cameo of herself in the mural with her back turned, and when she unveiled the painting to Barrison in 1994 it was a panel short — the missing section depicted him and she didn’t want to spoil the surprise until the installation ceremony.
“It’s magnificent, truly a beautiful sight,” raved Rich Dworkin, who lives in the area and said he braves the pigeon-poop from the train trestle above just to admire the artwork, periodically restored by Barrison’s group to keep it fresh for years to come.