August 4, 2016

"Spark of Divinity": New mural in Sedona for Whole Foods

This is a mural I just recently painted in Sedona, Arizona, commissioned by Whole Foods for their store there. The embracing figures are based on my mother-in-law and her granddaughter. I hope this mural might convey some sense of the positive influence of familial love and joy, as I've seen the impact of these on my mother-in-law while she has been going through cancer treatment the last few years. The mural is also a sort of southwestern homage to one of my favorite artists, the great Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt. The mural is based on a section of Klimt's Beethoven Frieze, from 1902, which was inspired by a Beethoven symphony from 1824, which was inspired by a Friedrich Schiller poem from 1785. That poem, the infamous 'Ode To Joy', begins with the line: 'Joy, beautiful spark of divinity...'

Thanks to my good friend and Arizona aerosol pioneer Mando Rascón for his help with the background designs.
Thanks to Whole Foods and Carlo Carbajal for making such a cool public art project possible.
Thanks to Saichai, Madeleine, Kim, Jorge Bracamonte, Peter Votichenko & the Votichenko family, Marisa Aragon, Fernando Ramos, Corey @ACE, Tamaliza, the good people of Sedona, and anyone else that provided encouragement or support.

June 30, 2016

EL MAC in Morocco

I spent a couple weeks in Morocco recently to paint some small murals as part of the Igloo Hong project (along with an all star team of artists including David Choe, Andrew Hem, Aaron Horkey, Mars 1, Esao Andrews, & DVS1)

The first mural, painted in Agdz (southeastern Morocco), is outside the Casbah des Arts, and is a portrait of Mohamed Ait El Caid ( محمد ايت القيد ). He is a 92 year old man who lives next door to the mural. He is a respected local figure, who once had the first radio in Agdz and would also receive foreign newspapers so he could share the news with local residents. I was impressed with his willingness to be photographed and painted by a strange foreigner 
The second mural, also in Agdz, is based on images of my cat, and is painted on a centuries-old mudbrick kasbah. One can clearly see a great appreciation for cats throughout Morocco. There is a story about the Prophet Muhammad having such affection for cats that he once cut off the sleeve of his robe so as to not disturb his cat, Muezza, who was sleeping on it. Agdz also means 'resting place', so painting a sleeping cat seemed appropriate.
The third wall is further east in Merzouga, at the edge of the Sahara, near the border with Algeria. Andrew Hem painted the background designs for this one. It is based on my photos of Hssain Ahnana ( حساين اهنانا ) who comes from a lineage of Sahrawi nomads and now owns the camping ground (Secret du Sahara) where the mural was painted. He is painted wearing his 'cheche', which is a traditional indigo-dyed head wrap worn by indigenous North African Amazigh/Tuareg/Berber people for protection from the harsh sun and sand. The Tuareg have been known as the 'blue men of the desert' for this. 
Having grown up primarily in another desert (Sonoran) on the other side of the planet, it was fascinating to come to the Saharan Desert and see some of the environmental and cultural parallels, along with the local adaptations for desert life. I hope to make it back someday.

Many thanks to the good people of Morocco, the David Young Choe Foundation + the Igloo Hong team: Dave, Matt, Jy-Ah, Karim, Jason, Paco, Steve, Soufian, and everyone/anyone else that helped out. 

Photos by me except:
2,10-12 by Matt Revelli
6,16 by Dave Choe
9 by Jy-Ah Min
13,15,21 by Paco Raterta

April 25, 2016

"Desert Rose (Nuevas Generaciones)": New mural for Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum

This is a new mural commissioned by the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum in Mesa (east Phoenix), Arizona. The mural is painted on a concrete exterior wall of the museum. 
The image is based on my photos of Karen Bracamonte, an immigrant from Guatemala who is married to one of my closest friends. At the time of the reference shoot Karen was roughly seven months pregnant, so in a way, this painting depicts not only her but her baby as well (my soon-to-be godson). 
I was honored to paint for this museum something that can hopefully be seen as beautiful and affirming of love, life, and diversity
My good friend Mando Rascón, longtime Mesa resident and one of the most important graffiti artists in Phoenix since the early-90s, assisted by painting some of the background designs at the top.
Many thanks to Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum, Tiffany Fairall, Frank Gonzales, my compadres Karen and Ari Bracamonte, Niba DelCastillo, Mando, and anyone else that supported or helped make this possible. 

"Aerosol Exalted", my museum exhibition from the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center last year will be traveling to Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum. The show will be up May 13- August 7.

Photos 2-5, 9, 10 by Niba DelCastillo

April 7, 2016

NYC subway sketches

Aside from being a Mecca for graffiti artists everywhere, the New York City subway transports an endless flow of humanity that makes it truly one of my favorite places to draw people. There is a vibrant diversity hosted in its aged vascular system that is unlike that of any other public transportation system I know of. 
These are some subway sketches from last year when I was in town working on 'El Regalo Mágico'. Although I usually finish the drawings later, I love the immediacy and challenge of trying to discreetly capture as much as I can of these fleeting moments in time with pencil and paper. These are the 'successes' -what I'm not showing are all the drawings that were interrupted or never completed because somebody either woke up, moved too much, or got off the train.

March 23, 2016

"Enduring Spell" : New mural for the University of California, San Diego

This is a new mural commissioned by the University of California, San Diego. The mural is titled "An Enduring Spell" and is located at the interior courtyard of Argo Hall, on UC San Diego's Revelle College campus. The namesake of the college is the late oceanographer Roger Revelle, one of the first scientists to study climate change:

The ocean holds me in an enduring spell. Part of the spell comes from mystery – the fourfold mystery of the shoreline, the surface, the horizon, and the timeless motion of the sea. At the horizon, where my line of sight touches the edge of the great globe itself, I watch ships slowly disappear, first the hulls then the tall masts, bound on voyages to unknown ports 10,000 miles away. From beyond the horizon come the waves that break rhythmically on the beach, sounding now loud, now soft, as they did long before I was born and as they will in the far future. The restless, ever-changing ocean is timeless on the scale of my life, and this also is a mystery.

- Roger Revelle, 1969

The majority of my life so far has been spent in cities either by the Pacific Ocean or in the Sonoran Desert, and I think my familiarity with the two environments and their contrasts has instilled a deep appreciation in me for both. 
The ocean, with all its unexplored depths, can inspire us to ponder the immensity of this world and our place in it. Our smallness next to the ocean demands our humility and respect. The ocean allows life, sustains our existence, and so we love it and are indebted to it, forever connected to it.
This sense of fascination and connection with the sea was my inspiration for this work

This and my mural for Northeastern University in Boston last year were both important projects for me, as one of my motivations for painting public art is to uplift and inspire others the way I was uplifted and inspired by great art when I was young. Painting murals for learning institutions is a chance to create art that will become part of the landscape for thousands of students, and I am grateful for these opportunities to impart some artistic soul in such important places.

Many thanks to UCSD, Emily Desai, Juli Smith, and anyone else that helped make this possible.
Photos by Eric Heights