Who’s Brad?


Grace Lewis

The mysterious Brad Mural looms in Peninsula’s hallway.

Madeleine Johnson, Reporter

Looming in the main hallway of Peninsula High School, the infamous, “Brad” mural watches over the hoards of students passing by. Day and night the painting stands alone, grandiose in its central position of the school. In the mural, a blonde-haired beauty, the perfect image of a stereotypical high school cheerleader, gazes up through tears at the heroic “Brad”. In highly exaggerated cartoon lettering, she broods, “If only I can date a guy like Brad…”

The huge wall mural often evokes a feeling of mystery amongst students, teachers, and lookie loos alike. One of the greatest enigmas of PHS, the painting makes passer-bys look back at it and wonder what it’s all about.

To unearth the inspiration and meaning of Brad, one has to investigate its origins. It all begins with Mrs. Bruey.

Most know Mrs. Bruey as the quirky 10th grade English teacher. Everyone who has the privilege to meet Bruey instantly loves her energy and her passion for English, nature, art, and music.

“I love english and I love art” Bruey said.

So it makes sense when in 1998, Bruey and five other friends decided to paint a mural accentuating their favorite art styles while making an avant garde statement.

The year before, in 1997, Mrs Buchanan, Peninsula’s former art teacher, tasked another group of students to paint a piece marking Peninsula’s 50th anniversary. That group decided to imitate Salvador Dali’s clock piece. They used mind boggling tessellations (influenced by MC Escher) to play with the concept of time. Inspired, the following year, Bruey and her comrades valiantly set off to create a masterpiece.

“The theme was to choose an artist and mimic their style as well as incorporate elements of Peninsula High School,” Bruey said.

The five student artists all had their own ideas for the mural but they all agreed on one thing; they wanted to feature Pop Art.

Pop Art was a movement beginning in the 1950’s that reached its peak in the 1960’s. Bruey and her friends were enchanted by the movement’s bold prints, benday dots, and bright colors.

“There was a lot of us kids here that were fascinated with the music of that time and the art of that time,” Bruey said.

Bruey and her friends romanticized the 60’s like our generation romanticizes the 80’s. They were enthralled by hippies, Jack Kerouac, and being in bands.

“It was a creative time to be here,” Bruey said of her high school career.

The five student artists explored a number of pop artists to base the mural off of, but Bruey was determined to see her favorite come to life in the main drag of Peninsula.

Roy Lichtenstein is famous for taking something simple and cheap like a gum wrapper and blowing it up to a larger than life high art. His works are reminiscent of Picasso but he uses a comic style as his piece de resistance.

Lichtenstein painted all sorts of art: landscapes, portraits, even abstract brushstrokes, but he’s famous for his 50’s styled cartoons usually featuring a damsel in distress. The mural Bruey helped paint is based off of these overly-dramatic Lichtenstein paintings focused on a young woman.

In these paintings, a girl, often depicted through intense colors and benday dots, can be seen struggling with her feelings for a boy.

“Most often, the man in Liechtenstein is Brad. That’s who Brad is,” Bruey said.

So, when the time came for the five students to vote on a muse, Bruey hoped her idea would win. To her great excitement it did; the mural would imitate Lichtenstein.

With Lichtenstein’s idea of whirlwind romances and intense first-love feelings the students began to create the Brad mural. They depicted a stereotypical high school cheerleader pining over a boy. The crying girl featured in their mural looks up through her mascaraed eyes into the epitome of manliness, of which is Brad, while she thinks to herself, “Why can’t I date a guy like Brad?” Like Lichtenstein, their painting uses high school drama to create a mysterious yet relatable work of art. The goal was to make people look back over their shoulder as they walk past the mural, and that’s exactly what the painting does.

“It’s not about giving all the answers it’s about capturing the social drama of high school,” Bruey said.

Coming up on 20 years of existence, the mural still stands strong. While at first glance it confuses many students and adults alike, it also pushes them to think about the frivolity and seriousness of high school. While poking fun at imposed gender roles, the Brad mural is a metaphor for high school’s dumb drama and its defining dispositions.

“In high school so much of our lives are defined by the choices we make right now so the drama is trivial but it’s also really serious,” Bruey said.

The mural accomplishes a wide variety of responses, and all of them are valid. But mainly the mural was painted to challenge those you saw it. It was meant to make people think and to question it. All in all, that’s exactly what the Brad mural does.

“Art isn’t to make you happy, it can be but it’s so much more. Its meant to challenge, to provoke thought, to tell a story, and that’s why i think that mural works because there’s this mysterious but also beautiful edge to it.”  Bruey said.