June 13, 2015

"La Abuelita/Má'sání" : Recent mural in Los Angeles by EL MAC x KOFIE x NUKE

La abuelita, the grandmother, weaver of blankets,
You gaze upon a new day as the moon sets in the west,
its incandescent glow and light guides the spirits that once resided in this city of the Angels.
At the turn of the century when this building was built, when this city was abustle with Victorian homes and model A's and model T's.
There has always been an abuelita looking up and to the sky, praying for the souls that keep the night suspended above us. Its black cloak filled with stars, its green ghosts swirling in the early dawn air.
Abuelita, grandmother of the arts, guide our souls to rejoice in the days we create.
For we are the dawn
a dream becoming reality
weaving our stories of the past.
Weaving them into place, from order out of chaos, from plurality to singularity.
A blanket carries so much weight. It holds our dreams. But do we often wonder who weaves the blanket, or what they were thinking? La abuelita, she thinks of us when she weaves. It is not so hard to imagine that God is a grandmother.

-Joseph 'Nuke' Montalvo
March 4, 2015
On reflection of the mural created by El Mac, Augustine Kofie, and Joseph 'Nuke' Montalvo on The American Hotel in the Los Angeles Arts District. With guidance and wisdom from UTI and Earth Crew.

The portrait is painted entirely with aerosol and fatcaps, and is based on photos I shot a few years ago of an artist named Martha Gorman Schultz. She is a Navajo blanket weaver from northern Arizona, and part of a respected family of weavers including her granddaughter, Melissa Cody.

I felt this painting of Martha could be an empowering representation of beauty not often depicted in public art or media. Beauty that is feminine, elderly, indigenous, loving and powerful.
The building this mural was painted on was constructed in 1901, and you can imagine how much Los Angeles history it's seen over the last hundred years or so.
This was an especially collaborative effort- Along with the work of Kofie and Nuke surrounding the figure, SKILL UTI painted the wall to the left, integrating an already existing piece by DASH 2000(Rest In Peace). SWAN provided ground support, along with CHEE, AISE, BLK, OFIER, SELEK, CALVYRUS and some other younger members of UTI crew, which has been painting these walls for the last few decades.

Martha and some of her family were able to come to LA to visit the mural last week, which was an important occasion since this was also her first time in Los Angeles, and I was glad I could be there to meet them.
Thanks to Martha, Melissa, The American Hotel, and UTI crew. The last five photos of Martha's visit were shot by Eric Heights.

May 12, 2015

"Nuestra Gente" : New mural in Phoenix

 "ARIZONE" by Pablo Luna, Phoenix, 1986

"NAUSEOUSLY GREEDY" by Mando Rascón, Phoenix, 1998

Here are some photos of a mural I painted earlier this year near downtown Phoenix, Arizona, titled "Nuestra Gente". The background designs around the face were painted by Mando Rascón, and the outer images on the ends of the mural were painted by Pablo Luna. Mando and Pablo were known in the 90s as pioneers of graffiti in Phoenix. Pablo began painting graffiti in the early 80s and became one of Phoenix's most prolific painters, while Mando perfected a style of intricate lettering that was unique and influential. It was exciting to take time to paint something nice with them both again. I'm really proud of this mural and, at the risk of sounding ostentatious, consider it a kind of homage to and for the people of Phoenix. 
I was originally planning on painting this at another far more visible location in the heart of downtown Phoenix but the building owners commissioning the mural had concerns that the model looked "unattractive", saying that "there was hesitation about putting up a person of any noticeable ethnicity".
Because of this I decided to to paint the mural elsewhere, on nearby Van Buren Street. Not as visible or prestigious a location, but still meaningful. The mural is in walking distance from landmarks on Van Buren (all gone now) that I remember from growing up. Places like New Chance Thrift store (where about three decades back my parents bought an old streamlined refrigerator from the 50s that miraculously still works fine), Arnold's Pickle factory (the smell will stay with me forever..you could could smell pickles a block away), La Tolteca restaurant (where I enjoyed many breakfast burros & caguamas, not to mention bomb pan dulce), and one of my old schools, St. Mary's Elementary (which had a profound impact on me for being the only güerito in third grade).
It can be a hard place to like, but I maintain a great love for Phoenix. Despite the efforts of those that attempt to foster an environment of fear, ignorance, and homogeneity (and those that acquiesce), I believe Phoenix is a great city that should be proud of its diverse cultural population and indigenous history.
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." -MLK Jr.
Many thanks to Pablo, Mando, and the folks at Heavy Pedal for helping make this mural possible, and thanks to those that are helping fight to make Phoenix a better place.
Thanks also to the Nitty Gritty crew, Polina, David Joseph Perez, & Howard's ACE Hardware

April 6, 2015

"Las Flores del Campo" : New mural in Puerto Rico

"Las Flores del Campo" -This is a mural I painted recently in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, near San Juan. 
This is the highest up I've painted before (A few stories higher than "María de la Reforma" in Mexico City) The challenge was not fear of heights, but the fact that it was such a prohibitive, time-consuming process to get up and down from the wall, which meant I didn't work on it with as much perspective as I'd like. It also would have been nice to have a bit more time to work on it (and maybe a few less rain showers), however overall I'm happy with how it came out. The figure almost seems to be using the wall as clothing, which felt appropriate as the tug-of-war between Nature and Civilization seems to be very visible on this beautiful island.
The mural was made possible by the Los Muros Hablan mural festival. Thanks to Emil, Paloma, Pablo y el resto del equipo LMH, Kim, Polina, David Joseph Perez, Celso + Calma, Daniel San, Alexis Diaz, Bad, etc

March 29, 2015

"Ánimo Sin Fronteras" : New mural in El Paso + video

This is the mural I painted in El Paso, Texas, titled "Ánimo Sin Fronteras" (spirit without borders). All aerosol and fatcapsIt's based on photos I shot in 2012 of a man named Melchor Flores, who's been fighting to get answers and justice for his son who was picked up and disappeared by police in Nuevo León in 2009. This mural is located in the heart of downtown El Paso, and complements the fighting spirit of the classic boxing mural next to it. This is an important mural for me, something I've been trying to make happen for a while. It is for all those who fight for justice.

Once again, gracias a don Melchor y los otros participantes de la Caravana por permitirme tomar sus fotos..and thanks to Grave y la familia Herrera, Ari BracamonteEric HeightsRicardo Fernandez, Ahern Rentals, Chris FisherMitsu Overstreet, Marina Monsisvais + KTEPThe TapCulture Strike, and anyone else that helped or supported in any way. 

Photo credits:
1, 2, 9 by: Federico Villalba
4, 5, 6, 8 by: Eric Heights
7, 10, 11, 12 by: Vallarie + Arturo Enriquez

This video was shot and edited by Eric Heights. It's always tough to hear myself talk, but I sound extra slow and out of it due to the effects of nearly two straight weeks of nonstop painting until the late hours and not enough sleep. Actually, I've probably been sleep deprived from working late for most of the interviews I've done so far...these murals are hard work

March 26, 2015

"Juarense y Poderosa" : New mural in Ciudad Juarez

After a slow year or so of health concerns and recovery that limited my capacity to take on projects or travel, I've been trying to make up for lost time by painting more murals over the last few months.. 

Last December I painted murals in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuaha and El Paso, Texas as a sort of independent binational public art project that I'd been planning for a few years with my friend David 'Grave' Herrera. 

In 2012 I photographed participants in the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity (Caravana por la Paz con Justicia y Dignidad) when it passed through El Paso. The caravan was made up of people who had lost family members to the violence, corruption and injustice that has plagued Mexico for the last near-decade.
"Juarense y Poderosa", the mural I painted in Ciudad Juárez, was based on photos I took of a young woman from there named Diana who lost her mother to kidnapping. "Ánimo Sin Fronteras", the second mural, painted on the other side of the border in El Paso, was based on my photos of a man named Melchor, whose son was disappeared by corrupt police. Both Diana and Melchor represent countless others who've lost and suffered in recent years. 
I felt a responsibility to paint these murals, to create images of inspiration and empowerment. In my own small way, with my own voice and platform, I hope to honor those that have suffered the effects of this ongoing injustice.
I lived for a short time near El Paso/Juárez in the mid-90s, and developed an appreciation for that border region. I met Grave there through graffiti back then and without his help these murals would not have happened. Grave coordinated much of the logistics and ground support for these murals, and also painted the background designs for the Cd. Juárez mural. This mural is located at the CEHLIDER building: Calle 20 de Noviembre #4305, Col. El Colegio

Gracias a Diana, Melchor, y los otros participantes de la Caravana por permitirme tomar sus fotos.

Thanks to Grave y la familia Herrera, Ari Bracamonte, Eric HeightsJellyfish ColectivoRicardo Fernandez, Amor Por Juarez + Juarez Contemporary, Marina Monsisvais + KTEP, Culture Strike, and anyone else that helped or supported in any way.
All of the above photos by Eric Heights.

Photos of the El Paso mural to follow..