Artists with diverse styles took to exterior walls throughout metro Phoenix during 2015, creating a vibrant assortment of narrative, figurative, and abstract murals addressing themes from migration to desert wildlife. Here’s a look at the 10 best.
For the Love of Color
Phoenix artist Carrie Marill, an artist represented by Lisa Sette Gallery, painted a coil of patchwork colors called For the Love of Color on the south-facing wall of Combine Studios. Marill and her husband, artist Matthew Moore, own the complex – which includes work and living spaces for artists who participate in ASU’s international artist residency, as well as gallery space. The mural features Marill’s characteristic use of bright colors and geometrics, and she extended the visual play by giving a similar color block treatment to a nearby bench outside the entrance to Combine Studio’s exhibition space. Marill’s other Phoenix murals include an homage to Margaret Kilgallen on the corner of Second Street and Roosevelt (previously vandalized and repainted), and a tool-theme piece that covers several walls at the Roosevelt Growhouse.
Artist Douglas Miles, founder of Apache Skateboards, created a mural in March on an east-facing wall next to Barrio Café, located at 16th Street and Windsor. The mural reflects themes found in his body of work, which he describes as “a reflection of the unheard and unseen reality of Apache and tribal history in America.” His other mural art in metro Phoenix includes a black-and-white piece referencing today’s “selfie” culture that's located on an east-facing wall at monOrchid.
John Waddell and Frank Henry
Berlin-based artist Karl Addison created what he calls a two-part series of murals featuring images of Phoenix icons – sculptor John Waddell and the late architect Frank Henry. Addison painted Henry’s portrait on a north-facing wall for Kitchen Sink Studios, a creative agency located across from ASU’s Combine Studios in Roosevelt Row. Waddell’s portrait is painted on the top portion of a south-facing wall behind the agency, where it’s easy to miss unless you happen to be looking skyward in the FilmBar parking lot. Each features his characteristic hatch drawing with diagonal lines painted primarily with shades of red, purple, and pink. Addison’s prior work in metro Phoenix includes Generations located at the southeast corner of First Avenue and Thomas, which he created with James Bullough (together they go by JBAK) in April of 2013.
Nuestro Gente (Our People)
Los Angeles-based Miles “Mac” McGregor, the Phoenix-born artist who goes by El Mac, collaborated with local artists Mando Rascon and Pablo Luna on a mural for the east-facing wall of The Heavy Pedal located on Van Buren near 13th Street. El Mac painted the profile of a woman, which features his characteristic line work, at the center of the piece. Originally conceived for another downtown space, El Mac says he decided to find a new spot after those who’d originally commissioned it decided his design didn’t fit their vision. He has painted a host of other murals here through the years, including several long ago painted over. His Southwest Goddess made our 40 Favorite Murals in Phoenix list, and his mural created with Augustine Kofie on the west-facing wall of what’s now Flowers Beer & Wine at the corner of Fifth Street and Roosevelt continues to be a popular spot for snapping photos.
The Painted Desert
Nashville-based artist and illustrator Rebecca Green created The Painted Desert on a north-facing wall at The Lodge Art Studio, where she kept a studio practice for a time before moving from Phoenix to Denver in 2013. The mural, painted in February, depicts a cadre of desert wildlife working together to paint a cactus-filled desert. Green painted the mural over her first mural for the same wall, which she’s said she was never really happy with and considered unfinished. The first mural, titled The Storybook (which Phoenix New Times named the best new mural of 2013), depicted a girl reading with animals against a pale blue mountain backdrop.
I Beam, You Beam
Phoenix artist Jeff Slim, who received the Phoenix New Times 2015 Big Brain Award for Visual Art, painted a mural depicting an elder and a child on a west-facing wall at the Segunda Thrift Store located near 14th Street on Van Buren. Slim has collaborated on several murals throughout metro Phoenix, including one on the back of the Barrio Café building on 16th Street and another on the south-facing wall of Valley Youth Theatre on First Street and Fillmore.
Untitled mural by Caratoes
Belgian-born, Hong Kong-based illustrator and street artist Cara To (who goes by Caratoes) painted a mermaid in the desert during March on an east facing wall of a building on 16th Street at Sheridan, where it’s surrounded by dozens of Calle 16 murals by local artists.
The Tucson-based Colibri Center for Human Rights worked with four artists to create a mural in conjunction with the Netroots Nation conference held in Phoenix during July, which was focused on immigrant rights and advocacy. The migrant-theme mural, located on the east-facing wall for La Melgosa in the Grand Avenue arts district, includes the image of a woman holding a photo of her daughter, as well as hummingbirds and butterflies symbolic of the rich history of migration by indigenous people. Artists Chip Thomas (who goes by Jetsonorama) of the Navajo nation, Jess X. Chen of New York, Thea Gahr of Mexico City and Oregon, and Mata Ruda of New Jersey worked on the mural – as did several local artists including Lalo Cota, Eduardo Pym, and Jeff Slim.
Collaborative mural at 7th Street and Pierce
Several artists have created figurative works reflecting their distinct styles on a north-facing wall behind the building that currently houses Space 55 and Palabra. Participating artists include Tyson Krank and JJ Horner (a.k.a. Pyramid Country), as well as Jeff Slim and Tato Caraveo of Phoenix. Slim calls his section of the mural Let’s Go Up, and it’s our favorite part of this collaboration.
Collaborative mural at Zinnias at Melrose
Phoenix artists JB Snyder and Tato Caraveo collaborated on a mural on the south-facing wall for Zinnias at Melrose, which comprises a backdrop of Snyder’s characteristic intertwined lines and a pair of birds – one a hummingbird, and the other a bird of prey. Several additional Caraveo and Snyder collaborations are located in Roosevelt Row.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.