Feathered Bastard

Anti-Joe Arpaio Mural Inspired by New Times Cover Goes from Gallery to Phoenix Wall

Inspired in part by New Times' March 19, 2009 cover art for the feature "Are Your Papers in Order?" by Village Voice Media Executive Editor Michael Lacey, Phoenix muralist Francisco Garcia first painted an image on canvas based on that ski-masked, gun-pointing MCSO deputy.

That image later became part of the larger work Para al Arpaio, which was hung on the walls of the Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center for the show that marked ALAC's grand opening in December of last year.

Garcia's work depicts a schizophrenic Arizona, with a face divided in half. One side features the saintly countenance of Cesar Chavez. The other side shows that of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Arpaio's Arizona is that of a MCSO gendarme in a balaclava, pointing a gun at the viewer. Chavez's Arizona is that of school graduates breaking the bonds of poverty, and of mothers sending their kids to gradeschool despite widespread oppression.

Dedicated to the Dream Act, the proposed legislation that would allow immigrant kids to legalize their status and attend college if they meet certain requirements, the envisioned mural had yet to find a home on a Phoenix wall until recently, when Gil Tejeda, owner of Arizona Carburetors, gave Garcia and his friends permission to paint the wall of his business at 2046 W. Buckeye Road, on the northeast corner of 21st Avenue and Buckeye.

Garcia said he approached around 10 different businesses before Tejeda's, getting turned down each time, until Tejeda said yes, and even kicked in for the cost of half the paint.

"It's a good idea," said Tejeda, 43, of the mural. "It makes the people think. Everybody needs to get involved."

A naturalized American citizen with eight American citizen kids, Tejeda said he supported the Dream Act because, "These kids are the future of America."

The 24 year-old Garcia said some of the artists who helped him were "Dream Act kids." That is, twentysomethings currently stuck in a legal limbo: unable to go to school or work legally because they are undocumented, brought here when they were young by their immigrant parents. (Read my colleague Malia Politzer's piece "Return to Sender," for more on the plight of these young men and women.)

Currently a student at Phoenix College in Chicano studies and art, Garcia rushed to finish the project before beginning a six month mission as part of an urban Christian ministry. Indeed, Garcia's Christianity informs much of his art.

In the mural, Garcia quotes a line from the Gospel of Luke: "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."

It doesn't take a theology student to figure out where Arpaio enters into that equation.

You may recall Garcia as the same young muralist whose work was censored by the Pine-Strawberry Elementary School last year because it included the face of an African-American child. (See, "Blue Boy," November 19, 2009.) The mostly white residents of Pine-Strawberry freaked at the black face, saying it didn't represent their community.

In the case of the Dream Act mural, the surrounding community is Hispanic, and even local taggers are likely to leave the mural alone, Garcia says, out of respect for its message.

When Tejeda was asked if he was concerned what Maricopa County's rogue sheriff might say or do about the mural, he shrugged and looked at Garcia:

"It's, what do you call it -- libre expresion?"

Garcia nodded, offering the right phrase in English, "Yeah, `freedom of speech.'" 

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons