Arts & Theater

Take a virtual tour of Sacramento’s newest murals

Maren Conrad explains the significance of koi fish in her MARRS Building mural

Sacramento artist Maren Conrad is painting a mural that spans the back of midtown's MARRS Building during the Wide Open Walls mural event. Conrad said the design is partly an homage to Chinese immigrants who helped build California's railroads.
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Sacramento artist Maren Conrad is painting a mural that spans the back of midtown's MARRS Building during the Wide Open Walls mural event. Conrad said the design is partly an homage to Chinese immigrants who helped build California's railroads.

The Wide Open Walls festival is expected to add about 40 murals to walls and public spaces around Sacramento before it ends Sunday, Aug. 20. With the event in full swing this week, we stopped by a dozen mural sites around town to snap a photo and ask the artists about their work. Here’s what they said:

Valenzuela mural
Mural by Bryan Valenzuela in midtown Sacramento. Matt Kawahara

Bryan Valenzuela, 1810 28th St.

“Basically what we have here is a large tug-of-war with a rope that’s fraying in the middle – it’s almost down to its last thread. We have two magnetic fields in the background. One is of a certain color panel, reds and pinks, and the other one is blues. So it’s sort of a comment on the political rhetoric of division happening in our current conversation, and how we’re sort of tearing each other apart, thread by thread.”

The shading of the arm and hand is actually handwritten text that Valenzuela produces in stream-of-consciousness style.

“A lot of things that have been happening the last bunch of days since Charlottesville have really crept into what I’m writing about. ... I still very much believe in the possibility that humanity can rise above. But right now you kind of have to face the reality that there are some real dark things happening.”

Sacramento artist Bryan Valenzuela is creating a mural at 1810 28th Street as part of the Wide Open Walls mural event. He said the image is a "tug of war" that reflects the divisiveness of the current national

Horner mural (use)
Mural by Waylon Horner in Oak Park. Matt Kawahara

Waylon Horner, 3402 Broadway

“I used to live in Oak Park, five or six years ago, and I really like the neighborhood. I feel like there’s a lot of good creative energy here, so that’s why this is the wall I selected. It’s kind of a scary wall. It’s got some really old bricks, it’s very textured, it’s got nails sticking out of it. But I like the neighborhood, so that’s why I wanted to go with this one.

“This is all free-style, just kind of like communication with the canvas, basically. I guess the closest thing I can use to describe this is it’s a playground for the eyes.”

Few and Far mural
Mural by Few and Far off Power Inn Road. Matt Kawahara

Few and Far, 4301 Power Inn Road

Few and Far is an all-female street art team with murals in cities around the world. This mural was painted by members Deity, Meme and Ursula X. Young.

Said Young: “It really was just an art nouveau-inspired, very feminine piece. We’re an all-female crew so we really wanted to highlight that. ... My dad used to take me to a lot of museums as a kid, so art nouveau has kind of been a part of my life for a long time. Alphonse Mucha – he was kind of a founder of the art nouveau movement, and it was always very kind of feminine and swirly and fluid.

Musser mural
Mural by Jeff Musser off Power Inn Road. Matt Kawahara

Jeff Musser, 3925 Power Inn Road

“The theme of the mural is a covert way to talk about gentrification. The woman is the goddess Minerva, the Roman goddess of art and knowledge. She’s actually the woman that’s on the California state seal, holding a shield and spear.

“So she’s a stand-in for the poor, working-class creative community in Sacramento, who are in a sense being used to raise the profile of Sacramento and make it a hub for creativity but at the same time are being forced out. Because as the city’s profile rises, new development comes in, property taxes go up, and the artists that have been used to make the community interesting, fun and exciting can no longer afford to live here.”

Roberts mural
Mural by Tyson Anthony Roberts. Matt Kawahara

Tyson Anthony Roberts, 1719 34th St.

“I was given a good amount of creative freedom to come up with a concept that integrated paying homage to the McKinley Rose Garden, an East Sac fixture.

“I would say these are more along the lines of abstract florals. A lot of these abstract shapes and lines here, kind of the initial lines for everything, are done with spray paint, because you get that immediacy, that hard color line over the initial sketch. One thing I really did about this piece is the color palette. I think it works together and catches the eye from the street.”

Caratoes mural
Mural by Caratoes in midtown Sacramento. Matt Kawahara

Caratoes, 2131 Capitol Ave.

“(Organizers) were telling me a little about the history of Sacramento, like how (some people) want to change the slogan from ‘City of Trees’ to ‘Farm to Fork.’ I was like, ‘Oh my god, but I love food!’ So I’m basically painting a strawberry girl. I wanted to paint one giant strawberry sitting next to the trees, so it’s basically the two things, ‘City of Trees’ and ‘Farm to Fork,’ all in one picture.

“They’re going to be twin strawberry girls. And they’re going to be, like, pinky-swearing in the middle. You know the concept of yin and yang, right? Like concept and order, and how order can turn into chaos really fast. So it’s such an interplay between those things. And they’re doing the pinky-swear just as like a sneaky thing. Order and chaos, like, they’re in it together, just to mess with us basically.”

conrad mural 2
Mural by Maren Conrad on midtown MARRS Building. Matt Kawahara

Maren Conrad, MARRS Building

“I don’t know if most people know the legend behind the koi fish. But the reason why they have so much significance in Eastern culture is because there’s a legend that 100 golden koi fish tried to swim up a waterfall on the Yangtze River, and all of them began as a team, but one by one, as years wore on and the gods kept raising the waterfall, they gave up. Except one tenacious koi fish who refused to turn back and ended up swimming into the mouth of a cave and it flew out a dragon. It became much larger than it began.

“The message of the koi fish is prosperity through perseverance.”

Kinetik Ideas mural
Mural by Anthony Padilla in midtown. Matt Kawahara

Kinetik Ideas (Anthony Padilla), 1716 L St.

“Burning Falls up above Redding, it’s like one of the most beautiful falls in California. So what I’m imagining is that water in California, coming down the river into Sacramento. And then that lady that’s coming out is like the spirit of life, or whatever.

“Dragonflies live half their life in the water, so they’ll be flying across the mural. And then that side (nearest L Street) is going to be all technological. And there’s going to be the solar eclipse that happens (Aug. 21), right in the center of the mural.”

Zawacki mural
Mural by Tavar Zawacki on J Street. Matt Kawahara

Tavar Zawacki, 1123 J St.

“The title of this piece is ‘Metamorphosis.’ I grew up doing graffiti in Chico under the graffiti name ‘Above.’ And then I moved to Paris when I was 19 and I started to (paint) an arrow that was actually representational of that (graffiti name). But I was always anonymous. And now I’m no longer anonymous.

“I’ve just changed a lot. I felt more comfortable just being me, you know what I mean? This is a good (piece) because it’s transition – the arrow is still there, but it’s more about the shapes and everything else. For me this piece is really symbolic of that metamorphosis and the definition of changing from one thing to another over time.”

Phlegm mural
Mural by Phlegm on Improv Alley. Matt Kawahara

Phlegm, Improv Alley between 7th and 8th streets

“I like them to be kind of mysterious. I like the fact that it’s not really explained.”

Di Gregorio mural
Mural by Jose Di Gregorio at Beatnik Studios. Matt Kawahara

Jose Di Gregorio, 701 S St.

“There’s no sort of deeper meaning. People do ask, or have inquiries about what they think the work is, how it means to them, which I appreciate. I like that. It’s kind of a free association – everybody’s got their own interpretation. But I’m sort of just making the work. It’s an aesthetic that I enjoy, whether it’s the harmony of the lines, the meditative act of repetitious line drawing. Maybe it’s the closest thing I have to meditation.”

Zombie mural
Mural by Lora Zombie on R Street Corridor. Matt Kawahara

Lora Zombie, 1729 13th St.

“I don’t really like to use words when I can use paints. And I don’t really like to put some specific sense to my pictures, because the magic happens when each separate person can create, like, the sense of this picture by itself.

“But basically this picture is about what was in my mind when I was creating this. Everything that happens with me in my life, I’m always like, ‘Thank you, universe. Thank you, universe.’ So this piece is, like, the boy being in love with the universe, which means he’s super-thankful to the universe for all experiences that happen to him.”

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