Last week the international POW! WOW! mural festival returned to Long Beach, California. This celebration of art and music enlivened walls throughout the city with vibrant large-scale murals by artists from all around the world. We went on a hunt around Long Beach—from the one-way streets of downtown to the East Village arts district—to speak with some of the participating muralists and find out the ideas behind their work.

Telmo Miel

Where are you from?

Holland.

What’s your mural about?

Taking care of nature. We tried to show that off in an iconic animal from this area, so we used a pelican. We had three sketches, we had to present it to the owner because he wanted to look at what we were going to do, and he chose this sketch.

Hitotzuki

Where are you from?

Tokyo.

What’s your mural about?

Blue has both a negative and positive meaning, like “feeling blue” and the pretty sky is blue. Our team name [Hitotzuki, a combination of sun and moon], is negative/positive, meaning taking them together to making something good.

Jaime Molina

Where are you from?

Denver, Colorado

What’s your mural about?

I was thinking about how everybody has got their own story, anybody you meet on the street. If you stop and take the time to listen, everybody has a lot of history, everybody has a family or people they care about. There’s a skeleton dude, which I do a lot of, and the word bubbles, the cactus-looking things—those are his stories or the song that he’s sung. Every experience you’ve had, good or bad, it become your story you share with your world. I always think it’s like a shadow, it’s always with you, it’s part of who you are. People are just going crazy, there’s a lot of negativity, but this is a guy just singing his song, regardless of who’s listening.

 

Dragon76

Where are you from?

Ishiga, Japan, but I will move to New York in October.

What’s your mural about?

Creation and destruction. Destruction for new creation.

 

Gail Werner

Where are you from?

The Southern California area.

What’s your mural about?

The North County of San Diego is where our reservation is. From Palm Spring down to Yuma and in all that inland area, there’s a lot of reservations because there are a lot of small tribes. We all have different languages, but we all have the songs. The tribal songs are called bird songs. They’re sung by the men and boys with a gourd rattle, and the women dance bird dance. [The bird songs] do talk about the creation, but they also talk about the migration of the birds—but it’s really the people migrating after the creator dies. They leave because they are sad. They go on their migration and [the mural is] all of the things they see: the mountains, the deserts, the landmarks, the night sky. It’s about a journey. When they get there, they’re sad because they’ve left their home, their place of origin, so they go back. The top part is based on the rock art, the pictographs, that are real common for Southern California. They’re usually red, although sometimes they’re yellow ochre or white. This one is based on a panel that’s up in Idyllwild, up in the mountains.