July 17, 2018

New mural in Belgium: 'Mural for My Father'

'Mural for My Father' is the title of my most recent mural in Europe, commissioned by the City of Antwerp for Antwerpen Barok 2018, and the Baroque Murals project curated by Yvon Tordoir, part of Antwerp’s yearlong celebration of Baroque art and culture. This piece is an interpretation of a depiction of Saint Joseph from the mid-1600s by Flemish painter Michaelina Wautier (this painting is currently on display in an exhibition of her work at the MAS museum in Antwerp).

Belgium is a special piece for me for a number of reasons. The first time I came to Belgium was in 2003 to participate in a group show titled Young Primitives with the nearby Groeningemuseum in Brugge, where a handful of other aerosol/graffiti artists and myself painted pieces around the old city that were inspired by the museum’s collection of work by Flemish Primitive painters. This was a hugely impactful project for me and made me fall in love with Belgium, so I was excited to return to Flanders for another project with a similar theme. This is also a continuation of my finding inspiration in the work of often underrepresented women painters of the past—including my ‘Phoenix Goddess’ mural painted in 2004 in downtown Phoenix, which was inspired by an 1826 painting by Belgian artist Elisa de Gamond.

'Mural for My Father' is located in the heart of Antwerp, between the Rubens Museum and the 14th-century Cathedral of Our Lady, and this area is filled with small statues of religious figures (mostly Madonnas) affixed to buildings overlooking street corners. I was inspired and impressed by these, seeing them not only as a beautiful form of public art but indicative of an exuberant cultural embrace of a Mother archetype--seemingly everywhere you go in Old Antwerp you are watched over by symbols of maternal benevolence. 
Considering the abundance of religious imagery in this place it felt appropriate to paint Saint Joseph, who is the patron saint of Belgium, as well as of fathers, expectant mothers, families, workers, and immigrants. He is traditionally portrayed in Western art holding lilies, which signify purity, though for many they might have more funerary associations. In the current context of declining labor rights, growing xenophobia, and migration crises around the world, I think even this fairly traditional representation of this patron saint of workers and immigrants holding lilies can take on an extra weight. However my primary intent with this piece was a little bit more personal. I've painted so many symbolist pieces honoring mothers, this might be my first large scale work honoring fathers, and this one is modeled after mine. I have been immensely fortunate to have a kind, loving, intelligent, hard-working father to exemplify for me an ideal of what a man and father can be. This mural was produced with great love as a dedication to him, as well as good fathers everywhere. (The title is a nod to one of his favorite songs, Horace Silver's 'Song for My Father' from 1965.)

This project was made possible thanks to Stad AntwerpenAntwerpen Kunstenstad, Yvon 'Rise' Tordoir + Aerosol Kings, Lieselotte De Beer, and Dré Demet. Additional thanks to the many kind people of Antwerp who showed support and appreciation, including the mystery donor who left that impressive bag of snacks for me!
Photos are my own except (from the top) #3: Manuela Geypen, #8:Jasper Léonard

March 22, 2018

New mural for the San Jose Museum of Art: 'Sophie Holding the World Together'

‘Sophie Holding the World Together’, 2017
Mural commissioned by the San Jose Museum of Art, in collaboration with The Propeller Group.


In these times when fear, inequity and divisiveness are so prevalent, this mural is intended to convey hope and empathy. The figure is based on an inspiring young activist named Sophie Cruz, who represents mixed-status families and advocates for immigration reform in the US.
When I met Sophie to shoot reference photos of her I asked if there was anything she wanted to hold for the photographs, and she came back holding a globe. This seemed perfect, while the lotus was added to symbolize the beauty that can grow from humble origins. .
I’d like to thank everyone who helped make this mural happen, and everyone who came by offering positive feedback. The response from the people in San Jose was some of the most encouraging and supportive I’ve received anywhere, I’m very grateful.


Many thanks to Tuan Andrew Nguyen, Matt Lucero, The Propeller Group, Lauren Dickens and the San José Museum of Art, Empire Seven Studios, Will Moran, the Children’s Discovery Museum, The Knight Foundation, University Art, Tad Freese and Brook Hartzell, Beverly and Peter Lipman, Lubliner, Dipti and Rakesh Mathur, Ian Reinhard, and SGSR. Additional thanks to Sophie + su familia, Eric Heights, Yosi Sergant, Define American, Yosimar Reyes, Bích Cao, and everyone else who helped or showed love.


“No Te Rindas
Esta es la Hora y el Mejor Momento/
Don't Give Up
This is the Hour and the Best Moment/
Đừng Bỏ Cuộc
Bây giờ là phút giây và khoảnh khắc tuyệt vời nhất”
(-M. Benedetti)


January 22, 2018

New EL MAC prints: "Purgatory"

New print release this Tuesday, January 23rd. Purchase info will be posted sometime after noon Pacific Standard Time at http://elmac.net

Print details:
Purgatory
Signed, titled, and numbered by the artist.
Hand-pulled serigraph by master printer Tony Clough at Serio Press in Pasadena, California. Printed in five colors/layers.
Printed on acid-free, 100% cotton, 290 gsm, Coventry Rag paper.
18.25in x 20.25in paper size
(16.25in x 17in printed area)
This print has the same exact dimensions as the 'Los Campesinos' prints from 2015.

There are two slightly different color editions of this print:

Purgatory:
edition of 47, darkest brushwork layer printed in black

Purgatory II:
edition of 25, darkest brushwork layer printed in dark teal blue

Artist's statement about the work:
'Across ancient cultures from around the world there are concepts of a period of postmortem atonement, with associated traditions of prayers and offerings made for the souls of the deceased so as to relieve their expiatory suffering. This artwork is also, in its own way, a similar kind of prayer or offering.
In these times of fear, confusion, nativism, and worsening inequity as more and more wealth is distributed from the many to a few, I painted this piece partly as a meditative gesture of support for the marginalized and scapegoated amongst us who live and work in a metaphorical state of purgatory.
"As brothers in the fight for equality... Our separate struggles are really one -- a struggle for freedom, for dignity and for humanity. You and your valiant fellow workers have demonstrated your commitment to righting grievous wrongs forced upon exploited people. We are together with you in spirit and in determination that our dreams for a better tomorrow will be realized." - Martin Luther King, Jr., in a 1966 telegram sent to UFW leader Cesar Chavez

November 12, 2017

New mural in Los Angeles: 'The Mother Creator II'

More devotional work for the great city of Los Angeles, painted last Summer. Putting some serious time, soul and energy out there for the people; striving to create good, uplifting public art in these strange, troubled times. This is a companion to my 2016 mural for the City of Montreal, 'La Mère Créatrice' -my homage to feminine creative force. This one's a tribute to artistic mothers, and their capacity to not only make people but art as well. I am an artist largely thanks to the influence of my mother, who is a great, inspiring painter. I've benefited from a lifetime of great conversations about art with her. Also, my mother-in-law, who passed away recently, though she probably wouldn't have considered herself an artist was as prolific and creative as any. The figure depicted in this mural is based on my reference photos of Jane Choe, the fiery artistic mother of my friend David Choe. It was a pleasure working with my talented young crewmate, brother, and local neighborhood resident Aise Born who assisted with the extra Alphonse Mucha-inspired acrylic embellishment on the halo designs.

July 19, 2017

New EL MAC prints: 'Winter in America'

New print release this Thursday, July 20th. Purchase info will be posted at a random time at http://elmac.net

Print details:
Winter in America
Signed, titled, and numbered by the artist.
Hand-pulled serigraph by master printer Tony Clough at Serio Press in Pasadena, California. Printed in two colors, the linework was printed in four layers to create a slight embossed effect.
Printed on acid-free, 100% cotton, 330 gsm, Italian Magnani Revere paper with one natural deckled edge along the bottom of the print.
18.25in x 20.25in paper size
(16.25in x 17in printed area)

Winter in America:
edition of 48, dark red on bright red/vermilion

Winter in America II:
edition of 8, dark blue on bright red/vermilion

Winter in America III:
edition of 8, black on cobalt blue

Artist's statement about the work:
'It seems that much of this country, if not the world, has been experiencing a growing climate of fear and confusion. Daily tragedies overwhelm and desensitize as we grow accustomed to hearing constant reports of killings by terrorists, criminals, and police. We face obscene and ever-worsening economic inequality alongside countless social and environmental problems. A dismal and surreal political atmosphere have contributed to a collective feeling of frustration and powerlessness.
I started working on this portrait of a woman in despair late last year as a response. This piece is also an homage to the great German social realist Käthe Kollwitz, who was known for her melancholy drawings and prints depicting the struggles and suffering of the working class from poverty and war. She was born 150 years ago in July of 1867, and her work is still just as powerful and relevant today. The figure was modeled after my wife's grandmother, and like most of my paintings it was not intended as a specific portrait of just one person but rather a representation of many people. It is a simple, direct expression of grief and fatigue in troubled times.'

"It is mid-winter in America; a man-made season of shattered dreams and shocked citizens, fumbling and frustrated beneath the crush of greed of corporate monsters and economic manipulators gone wild (...)
We must all do what we can for each other to weather this blizzard. Now more than ever all the family must be together; to comfort, to protect, to guide, to survive..."
-Gil Scott-Heron (1975)

January 6, 2017

"La Mère Créatrice/The Mother Creator" : New mural for the City of Montreal

This is my most recent mural for the great city of Montreal. It is a symbolist homage to feminine beauty and creative force as represented by a figure that can be seen as a sort of fertility goddess wielding a glowing paintbrush, emanating light amongst verdant, leafy growth. As with most of my work this mural was a devotional labor of love and neurotic perfectionism.
While procreativity is generally seen as a feminine characteristic, creativity is often perceived as intrinsically masculine, and one doesn't need to be an art historian to recognize male domination of the visual arts throughout history. However, thanks to the early influence of my exceptionally talented and inspirational artist mother, I've always taken for granted the tremendous dual capacity in women for both creativity and maternity. Thus, from my own perspective, woman is truly the greatest creator of all and this piece speaks to that.

This project was initiated by Artgang Galerie and made possible by the public art program of the Ville de Montréal, l'Arrondissement Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie, la Société de Développement Commercial de la Plaza St-Hubert, and Le Medley Simple Malt. Many thanks to my good friend Louis of Artgang Galerie for a decade so far of friendship and support. Thanks to Erica for modeling. Additional thanks to Valérie, Kwest, Louis-V, and all the locals who offered so much positive feedback and encouragement. Additional thanks to poutine for sustaining me on a few long cold nights..

Short video below by Eric Heights.
Music: 'Pacification' by La Nouvelle Frontière, recorded in Montreal in 1970