New mural commemorates Berlin Airlift

Lena Stange/USAG Wiesbaden Public Affairs
Retired Master Sgt. Martin Cervantez explains his creative process.

Near the entrance to Clay Kaserne used to be a white wall. Now it is a piece of art.

Retired U.S. Army Master Sgt. Martin Cervantez created a mural to remind the Wiesbaden community of the Berlin Airlift, the biggest humanitarian airlift in history, which started 70 years ago in June 1948.

Cervantez worked together with German graffiti artist Fabio Stenzel. The mural was his largest and most complicated project, and he needed a lot of help, Cervantez said, “It took a German and an American to make this thing happen.”

In addition, about 10 volunteers helped the two artists accomplish their work by finding materials, organizing the site and assembling and placing objects.

The mural is a mixture of assemblage and graffiti painting. Assemblage is like doing a puzzle without having the pieces: the pieces have to be found, Cervantez said.

Cervantez, the lead artist who started his military career as an illustrator enlisted in the Army Signal Corps in 1986, did the initial drawing, and attached objects to the wall to create a 3D effect. Stenzel did most of the painting.

The art Cervantez designs is supposed to make people think. He would like them to look at the mural from different angles and to discover new details every time, he said, such as the children’s figurines in the cockpit of the truck. They are in place to pique children’s curiosity for art.

His goal is to create artwork people “can look at for an infinite amount of time, and it will change,” he said, depending on whether the bright midday sun reflects on the metal parts or if clouds in the sky shield the mural from direct sunlight; if the observer stands right in front of the mural or farther away.

The former Artist in Residence at the U.S. Army Center of Military History, included two main ideas in the mural. He depicted the ground logistics at the Wiesbaden airfield during the Berlin Airlift, represented by an American and a German inventorying the boxes.

They are also a symbol for the collaboration between Germans and Americans during the airlift, Cervantez said. He used hoses for their uniforms to symbolize that it took “a lot of guts to do that, especially right after the war.”

He also included the air mission in the mural. Observers see planes flying away to bring supplies to West Berlin.

The materials Cervantez used were found at flea markets, on the street, or in recycling centers, he said. He also used the empty containers from the spray cans with which they painted the mural. His goal is to be sustainable and use up most parts of his working utensils.

“It was absolutely beautiful all the way through,” Cervantez said, “I really loved working with Fabi. … He was the right person with the right amount of skill and talent to complement what I do.”