A new mural is on display at Polk Museum of Art in Lakeland. Often artist Ruben Ubiera’s larger-than-life murals prompt onlookers to see the gorilla in the room. At Polk Museum of Art, that's literally what is happening.

Neo-figurative artist Ruben Ubiera, known for his graffiti-inspired technique, recently assisted Polk Museum of Art in celebrating its 50th anniversary by painting a 16’ x 24’ mural onto an interior wall of the museum. 

Ruben Ubiera Mural
Ruben Ubiera Mural

This is the first time the museum has dedicated such a large space to an interior mural and incorporated street art into its exhibition programming. This is also the first time Ubiera has painted a mural inside a museum.

The Artist

When Ruben Ubiera began painting professionally 10 years ago, the Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic native noticed galleries weren’t exhibiting urban postgraffism artists inside their spaces. That’s when images of gorillas began making appearances in Ubiera’s work. He uses the gorilla as a simile, “so you can say it’s the big gorilla in the room that everyone was ignoring,” he says.

Fun Fact: Postgraffism is the term used to describe graffiti and street art that frequently includes images influenced by skateboard imagery, comics and typography.

How It All Began

When Polk Museum of Art Curator Adam Justice conceived the idea of having a mural painted inside the museum two years ago, he knew Ruben Ubiera, who is based in Miami, was the artist for the job. He wanted the mural to represent street art in an effort to erase its stigma as being just vandalism.

The project was cut from the museum budget two years in a row, but crowdfunding through a Kickstarter campaign finally brought this mural to life. Just as traditional graffiti often is painted over within days of its appearance, Ubiera’s mural won’t last forever. His exhibition likely will remain for one year.

Rebels with a Cause at Polk Museum of Art
Rebels with a Cause at Polk Museum of Art

Rebels with a Cause

Also on display through July 3 is Rebels with a Cause. This landmark holding celebrates the achievements of more than 250 talented female artists active between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries. Many rebelled against the convention of their day by exhibiting alongside their male counterparts, receiving awards, and pioneering the way for those who would follow. 

You may also be interested in Polk Museum of Art and The Shop at Polk Museum of Art.

Other Area Murals

Spanish artists David De La Mano and Pablo S. Herrero are the creators of several pieces in downtown Winter Haven, tucked away in alleyways and on less prominent walls.  Their latest creation, titled “The Calm,” is a massive piece (over 60 feet long) which can be seen on the west side of Heartland Church, located at 225 Avenue B N.W.  

Lake Wales has 21 murals gracing downtown buildings and inside public spaces. The city has published a guide at cityoflakewales.com.