God, what a magnificent mural
God, what a magnificent mural. Jasmyne Keimig
I made another fortuitous and delightful discovery last week. Digital Editor Chase Burns alerted me to the existence of a mural at none other than the Trader Joe's on Capitol Hill. I've been to this particular location countless times but could never recall seeing a mural. That's because it's kind of hidden. It's located right as you step through the automatic doors of Trader Joe's to the left; it's right above where you can buy all those reuseable bags. And I almost couldn't believe what I was seeing. Getting closer, behind all the diverse faces, I thought I spotted a familiar one. There's really only one person that I could think of who I consistently see with neon green contacts, dark eye makeup, and pale skin. I thought: "Wait, is that Seattle drag entertainer Cucci Binaca?" Answer: hell yeah it is.
There she is! Cucci Binaca!
There she is! Cucci Binaca! JK

Some background. The artist is none other than Nancy Silvesan-Valdes who has been doing murals in the city for almost thirty years—fifteen as a freelance artist and fifteen as a chalkboard and mural painter at the store. Her work has graced numerous windows, walls, and chalkboards throughout the city. She even told me her work has been in places as far away as Ottawa, Canada. Over the phone she cites Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec as an inspiration—an artist who has worked both within the realm of art and advertisement. You may recognize his heavily reproduced 1891 Moulin Rouge ad from your friend’s parent’s re-done basement bar.

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Nancy doesn’t work in graphic prints, her medium is way more sentimental than that. No, Nancy's work decorates the sides of buildings. But in this case, the inside of a building, a Trader Joe's. For this particular mural, the store wanted something they felt reflected the neighborhood and could serve as a sign that all were welcome. Drawing inspiration from images of people she found online, Nancy painted a mural that consists of people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, ages, and genders. There's even a dog or two.

And surprise! Cucci is hidden in the back. Nancy told me that she collaborated with Cucci, exchanging photos, choosing the best one to be permanently enshrined at the entrance of this Trader Joe's. She told me she would have made Cucci more central but the idea came to her later in the process and the most available space was in between heads in the back. At one point during our interview, in reference to Cucci, Nancy exclaimed: "She is super beautiful!" Nancy, I agree!

Wait...who is that?
Spot the Cucci. JK

Next time you're headed into TJ's on your way to get some frozen orange chicken and a bottle of "Two Buck Chuck," make sure to take a moment and look at some art that features one of Seattle's most talented drag performers. You really won't regret it.

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