With the burgeoning of Spring, we notice how everything seems to come alive. Budding trees, flowering weeds and the greening of native flora filling empty spaces. If you have spent any time downtown lately, you may have also noticed some beautiful new botanical mural work by renowned artist Pastel (Francisco Díaz), from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Pastel has been in Albuquerque creating murals at the Sanitary Tortilla Factory and at the Tower Building, both buildings on opposite ends of 2nd Street downtown.
We are excited to have this work as a precursor to Cross Pollination, an exhibition opening August 19 at 516 ARTS and a series of public programs throughout the summer and fall around the city. The exhibition is about bees and other pollinators, as well as the cross pollination of art, science, and ideas, and how important all these things are tied to our food sources, environment and the planet in general.
I have been reading a lot about the very tight-knit relationship between flowers and pollinators, so as curator of the exhibition I am very pleased to have these wonderful botanical public art pieces as part of our city now. Pastel has noted that he is interested in strengthening and improving the quality of public surroundings. I recently had a chance to ask him a few more questions about his work and ideas.
Valerie Roybal: I was originally turned on to your work on Instagram and have been returning to your feed to discover and re-discover work you have done all over the world. I have also been recently marveling at your other works: prints and paintings, and you told me you are interested in land art. What I am most struck by is your interest in plants and flowers. What started you along the path of the botanical?
Pastel: Much of the flora that I use as references can be found growing in the cracks of the sidewalks and in fields of empty spaces. These cracks and spaces, sometimes generated by poor construction, are a reflection of the human need to control and subdue space for rational and autonomous use. Taking these small plants and glorifying them by changing their scale is a way to critique how our modern society has evolved.
What started you on the path of being a muralist?
I came from an architecture background, and architecture through certain strategies seeks to create a space for habitat and belonging for humans, whether it be a house, a museum, or a park. The mural, as a work in the public space via another method, creates those same intentions. The way that I began to deal with my work made both disciplines inseparable. Not coming from an academic background in art, I understood and structured my work in the public space as a counterpoint for approaching architecture through small actions derived from social reactions.
Creating murals is a way of working that can be observed as an informational tool, one that conveys local identity, nature, geography, economy, etc. The result is a kind of “micro architecture” or a natural form of urban acupuncture that creates a space to meet real needs of the people who pass through it.
You have been creating murals all over the world for the past several years. Is there anything about working in Albuquerque that is particularly different or interesting?
Each site has a unique atmosphere and different energy. My experience in Albuquerque has been that everything is there to be discovered, and I am very surprised and pleased by the beautiful city and vibrant culture that obviously borders Mexico and breathes that history.
Join 516 ARTS for a special dedication celebrating the completion of Pastel’s Botanical Mural Project on Tuesday, March 21, 4-6pm:
4-5pm at the Sanitary Tortilla Factory, with City Councilor Isaac Benton. 401 2nd St. SW; north-facing wall of the building on Lead Ave.
5-6pm at the Tower Plaza Building, with City Councilor Pat Davis. 510 2nd St. NW; south- and west-facing walls at the corner intersecting Martin Luther King Blvd.
Pastel’s work will be featured in the exhibition Cross Pollination at 516 ARTS opening August 19.
Very special thanks to Pastel; the dedicated local assistants that have helped this project become a reality: Erin De Rosa, Mick Burson, Linda Skye and Nichole Johnson; and project supporters J.J. Mahoney & Associates, the Sanitary Tortilla Factory, The City of Albuquerque Public Art Program, Sherwin-Williams, and Benjamin Moore Paints / Coronado Paint and Decorating.