September 2022


The Question of Murals

David Wiley

Having lived in Mexico and San Francisco where murals are part of the landscape, I had for years wanted to do a large mural of my own, something a little different from the usual mural style, which had always seemed too bound to mural traditions and conventions. Why not simply do a large painting, a studio painting on a grand scale? In December of 2005 I did finally get such an opportunity, having been invited by my step-brother and sister-in-law, Jack and Marina Rauh, to paint a twenty-two foot by fifty five foot mural on the side of their house in Arizona, no restriction, just whatever I wanted to paint. It was an exciting time for me. At age 67 I was at last doing a mural, with no requirements as to style or content. I relished every moment of preparation, making various designs and changing them until I had produced something like a horizontal painting filled with a great variety of things and a wide range of colors.

Our mural company, which we eventually decided to call "Monkeys with Brushes" consisted of five people: Robin, an artist friend from Alaska and Mexico, my three nieces, all artists of one kind or another, Gabriel Marien, Steena Marigold, and Chelsea Starfield, and myself. We worked well together and we all, I believe, had an exhilarating experience, in my case a dream come true. On at least two occasions in the evening after work we watched "The Horse's Mouth" on Jack and Marina's television screen and, coincidence or not, ever since then when I see a blank wall of any size I immediately begin to paint a mural on it with my imagination. Our mural was done in the country, in the hills of Arizona in a place where not many people would see it. That was not the point, of course. But it did make me think that if a mural could add beauty to a country setting that had a natural beauty of its own how much better served cities would be if they were filled with color and beauty in places where none had existed before.

After we had finished the mural in Arizona we all went to Mexico and painted two smaller murals on the outside walls of a house on an estuary of the Sea of Cortez.  After that the mural company dispersed and we have not had occasion to paint another mural together since. But we have remained close and ready to jump in with paintbrush in hand when another opportunity arises.

The question humanity needs to ask itself is: when we walk down the streets of a city do we want to see blank gray walls or do we want to see walls with color? There are those who object to murals on the grounds that they often carry a political message, however subtle or indirect. Murals do not have to be political any more than gallery paintings have to be political.  If loving color is a political statement in itself then it must be true that everything is political. So the political aspect is neutralized, and the same question remains:  solid gray or colors?

Mural art is not always great art. And being prominent, something that hundreds or thousands of people may see every day, there is the issue of who should paint the walls. However that problem may work itself out, the question remains:  to paint or not to paint? Perhaps a first step could be to turn gray walls into orange or magenta walls. Human civilization does not often choose to do what is best for it. There is too much fear and desire to control (and to be controlled). The extravagant use of color is too much of a wild card for the accountants and designers of the workplace, and others in charge of the urban setting where business interests always come first. Nevertheless, I do hope and believe that one day our cities will be a mix of parks and other natural settings, along with a good strategic sprinkling of manmade edifices rich with color.

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David Wiley painter-poet: graduate of U. Kansas; studied at Mexico City College and with artist Ignacio Belen in Barcelona. Widely traveled, he exhibits throughout California and abroad. Wiley has published two volumes of poetry: Designs for a Utopian Zoo (1992) and The Face of Creation (1996). Since 2005, Wiley has received large mural commissions in Arizona, Mexico and California. Wiley is a longtime contributor to Scene4: paintings, poems, meditations on art, creative non-fiction.
To inquire about his paintings, click here.
For more of his paintings, poetry and writings, check the Archives.

©2022 David Wiley
©2022 Publication Scene4 Magazine




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