- Associated Press - Monday, January 12, 2015

WOODBURY, Minn. (AP) - For those who missed out on Minnesota’s history, there’s Richard Hubal.

“Unfortunately, no one listens in history class,” said Hubal, 58, dabbing at a painting in his dark Woodbury basement.

Hubal has a mission - to tell Minnesota’s story through art, for those who didn’t read about it.

“I love history,” he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press (https://bit.ly/14q3y4Q ), as he put a spot of pink on a woman’s face. “I have been to Europe, and there they preserve history. Here, we just knock it down.”

Hubal has created thousands of works, some as small as a fingernail, others as big as the five-story-tall mural he completed in the Bahamas. He is one of the area’s most prolific mural painters and has sold pieces to Garrison Keillor, Yoko Ono and B.B. King.

But his artistic soul is rooted in the past.

A typical Hubal work decorates the side of a restored gas station in St. Paul Park.

It’s a civic portrait with a twist - featuring vanished buildings including a liberal arts college, opera house, mansions and factories.

Some wealthy St. Paul citizens, he explained, migrated to St. Paul Park in the early 20th century. That’s why the main street is called Summit Avenue - an echo of the original Summit Avenue, home to St. Paul’s most impressive mansions.

Instead of a normal street scene, Hubal’s mural depicts a road straight out of a “Twilight Zone” episode - on which a driver begins in a horse and buggy, which becomes a Model T and finally morphs into a modern car.

Hubal has done dozens of other historical murals, indoors in places including Wilebski’s Blues Saloon in St. Paul, and outdoors on the walls of several businesses.

One mural is as big as a highway billboard. It’s also in St. Paul Park, on the side of the city’s oldest building, now occupied by Franke’s Bar. This one shows the city circa 1900, as seen from the Mississippi River.

Hubal makes sure his art is acceptable to the community - which sometimes gets him in trouble.

Recently, a Somali man wanted a mural on the side of his restaurant. The man’s orders were clear - he wanted a huge collage of melting ice cream cones and scenes from “Beach Blanket Bingo,” a schlocky 1965 movie.

Hubal refused. Eventually, he talked the owner into something that would be more meaningful to Somali neighbors - a seascape from the Horn of Africa.

Hubal’s art helps keep historic traditions alive, as when he works with the 130-year-old St. Paul Winter Carnival.

Since 1996, Hubal has produced hundreds of carnival-related pieces, many to be auctioned at fundraisers.

Last year, he created 30 works for the carnival. “It gets pretty crazy,” he said. His Vulcan-themed chess set sold in December for $1,100.

This winter, Hubal is taking his art to the next level - not just to retell old stories but to create new ones.

Lurking in his basement is a work that will upend the mythology of the carnival.

Standing over the 2-foot-by-3-foot canvas, he explained the Winter Carnival legend in which King Boreas and his Queen of the Snows battle Vulcanus Rex, the cave-dwelling leader of the Vulcans.

The work was to be unveiled at an auction, but Hubal gave a sneak peek.

The painting depicts an act of betrayal in St. Paul’s Rice Park. King Boreas is shown offering his queen’s crown to Klondike Kate, a big-voiced hottie who vacillates between the two sides. In the background, the bare-headed Aurora, Queen of the Snows, howls in protest.

The implication is clear: Boreas is dumping his wife and making Klondike Kate the new Queen of the Snows.

How did Hubal have the chutzpah to mess with a decades-old tradition? “It’s sacrilegious. It’s horrible,” he said, gazing at the work. But he laughs as he says it.

“If I see things in a different way, or with some kind of twist,” he said, “why not?”


Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, https://www.twincities.com

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