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Core Lab’s superfoods: Artist creates nutritional giants

By Sara Gregory
sgregory@salisburypost.com
KANNAPOLIS ó It’s a picky child’s worst nightmare: an 11-foot-tall head of lettuce.
It’s billionaire David Murdock’s dream: He handpicked the fruits and vegetables that cover the dome at his crown jewel ó the Core Laboratory Building at the N.C. Research Campus.
Blowing Rock artist Brenda Councill is halfway through painting the larger-than-life produce that will one day be studied at labs throughout the campus.
“They are part of what (Murdock) considers ‘superfoods’ ó the most nutritious of all the food groups,” she says.
Councill is ahead of schedule to finish the mural by the end of the month. Most days she puts in 12- to 15-hours of painting with her assistant, Thibault Tosseram.
She has some help from unlikely sources. Visitor’s Center host Steve Lambert convinced Councill to let him try his hand with a paintbrush.
“I talked her into letting me paint a blueberry,” Lambert says. His is the one near the top. “That just thrilled me. It ain’t no big deal but it is to me.
“I’m trying to convince her to let me paint a strawberry.”
Oranges, apples, grapes, blueberries, radishes, broccolli, artichokes, lemons, limes, peaches, carrots, lettuce, peppers, strawberries, tomatoes and chocolate pods fill the dome’s 2,500-square-foot surface.
“For them to show up, they have to be gigantic,” Councill says.
A pineapple and bananas, key crops for Murdock’s Dole Food Co., figure prominently in the mural that went through nine sketches before it was approved.
Murdock receives periodic video updates showing progress on the dome’s mural.
“We’re not finished until he says it’s finished,” Councill says.
The pineapple is one of the few fruits Councill hasn’t started painting yet. That will probably take a week to complete, she says.
The first few days of the project were spent erecting a 120-foot scaffold ó “shaky ground,” Councill says ó that rises from the marbled floors of the core lab’s atrium. Painting is done from a platform that sits atop the scaffolding.
Then, using projectors and other equipment, Councill transferred the mural’s small-scale drawings to the wall.
Most of the fruits already are painted and now Councill is adding colors and shading to make the produce more life-life.
“The problem with painting inside a dome is you have constant perspective problems,” she says. “It’ll look different from all four floors.”

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