Artist John Horton, working on the Sacramento Mural at Sac State on the side of Shasta Hall in 2018, was one of the creative forces bringing Wide Open Walls activity to the University. This year, three artists will paint murals on campus buildings as part of the citywide celebration of public art. (Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)
By Dixie Reid
Three of the country’s top street artists will make their mark on Sacramento State as the Wide Open Walls mural festival returns to campus Aug. 8-18.
In 2018, 12 California artists collaborated on the now-iconic S-A-C-R-A-M-E-N-T-O “postcard” – officially the Sacramento Mural at Sac State – splashed across the side of Shasta Hall. It was the festival’s signature mural and quickly became a destination backdrop for team photos and selfies.
This year, the artists chosen for Sac State – Hoxxoh, who lives and works in Miami, and Jillian Evelyn and Eliseo Art Silva, both based in Los Angeles – each will bring their unique styles to University buildings.
“Hoxxoh will use the south wall of the Studio Theatre to create a dynamic and colorful invitation into time,” said Sheree Meyer, dean of the College of Arts & Letters. “Eliseo Silva’s mural on Brighton Hall will contrast the abstract experience of Hoxxoh’s work with a more representational vision of the intersection of art and history."
Evelyn's piece on Lassen Hall, will continue a tradition started by the Royal Chicano Air Force (RCAF) with its distinctive mural on Lassen's front wall, Meyer said.
It "confirms the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion," she said. "The fluidity of her female character and the way it appears to paradoxically capture movement in stasis will provide a fitting entrance to the building that houses Student Affairs,” Meyer says.
David Sobon, owner of an auction and event-planning company, created the Sacramento Mural Festival in 2016, inviting artists to transform overlooked places in Sacramento. The event was recast as Wide Open Walls the following year.
He received about 50 applications for the inaugural festival. This year, he sorted through more than 450. The 44 artists selected will paint 30 new murals in and around Sacramento.
“We give these artists a voice,” Sobon said. “They all have something they want to say. And with the murals and the artists we have on campus this year, everybody will want to come paint there in the future.”
The Wide Open Walls murals are a part of Sac State’s outdoor public art collection, which includes sculptures by such established artists as Gerald Walburg, Stephen Kaltenbach, and Peter VandenBerge.
Hoxxoh, whose real name is Douglas Hoekzema, creates dynamic, 3-D abstracts with colorful wavy patterns and interlinked circles. He likes to say that he gives the wall “what it asks for.” He often uses oscillating lawn sprinklers as “paint brushes,” but at Sac State will employ spray cans – “rattle cans” in street art lingo.
“I find that his investigations into alternative spray devices riff beautifully on graffiti artists’ lyrical and calligraphic uses of the spray can,” said Sac State art Professor Robert Ortbal.
Evelyn designed sneakers for Converse in Boston before moving to Los Angeles in 2017 to pursue her art. She usually paints naked, contorted women, but her Sac State mural subject will be fully clothed. She plans to pay homage to the University’s urban forest in some way.
Silva, who was born in the Philippines, calls himself “a weaver of history and heritage.” His 1995 mural “Filipino Americans: A Glorious History, a Golden Legacy” was named one of the 10 monumental murals in Los Angeles. It is a tribute to the Filipino American farmworkers whose protests in the late 1960s fueled the five-year Delano grape strike.
“We’re so lucky to get someone like him,” Sobon said. “His artwork, like the RCAF mural on campus, is important to history.”
Silva arrived in Sacramento a few days early to lead a “mural in minutes” workshop at the Filipino American Youth Leadership Conference held on campus.
“The workshop helped to shape the Filipino American migration themes he’ll embed in the mural,” said Vince Sales, arts programmer for the sponsoring Philippine National Day Association. “While he has an overall design, parts of the mural will have input from the community, particularly youth.”
Sacramento State also will be represented at the Wide Open Walls “Paint the Park” mural competition during the Aug. 7 Sacramento Republic FC game at Papa Murphy’s Park. Two alumni – Phillip Altstatt and Madelyne Joan Templeton – were among the 10 artists selected to submit an 8-by-8-foot mural.
Sac State is the evening’s presenting partner. The artists are vying for a $1,000 grand prize and the chance to be a Wide Open Walls muralist in 2020.