By now, all of Arizona knows that Tucson is a mini mecca for the arts and the city’s many colorful street murals offer a first glimpse into the city’s unique culture. I’m about to sit down and talk to international graffiti artist Rock Martinez about Tucson’s vibrant art scene. Born and raised right here, Rock’s art is heavily inspired by Tucson’s history and its unparalleled style. He’s also agreed to give me a personal tour of some of his favorite local works. Rock Martinez thank you for meeting me here in Tucson! Thank you for having me Where exactly are we? This, this market is adorable. This is the Mercado’s San Agustín. This is Menlo Park.
Menlo Park. The history of graffiti has changed so much now it’s this really big established art form. It was kids that didn’t have money so they, they would still spray paint and go pain the subway trains. Then graffiti just blew up and went all over the world. I just want to get my artwork seen in whatever venture that I choose to do and get it as large as I possibly can. There’s a lot of elements of who you are in your art. You know, coming from the southwest, specifically Tucson, I encompass in my paintings things that are the resources here. I illustrate the importance of immigrants and the migration and so the characters and insects that usually reflect in my art. Butterflies are huge migration and hummingbirds and just being of Mexican descent and of native descent, I always go back to that and the beauty of, of the Southwest, and Arizona and Tucson specifically, with our large saguaros that you’ve never seen anywhere else. So we’re gonna look at some of your murals today.
Tucsons Colorful Art Scene Murals Music and More Photo Gallery
We’re gonna look at four murals, yes. Great. Tell me, so what’s the first we’re gonna go to. The goddess of agave, Mayahuel. So this is part of a series called, I called Cactus People. I always was trying to create something that represented me and where I’m able to illustrate the importance of things that take place in the southwest. You have the saguaros, you have the nopales, and you have the agave and they have this kind of native feeling and I try to express that through imagery and symbols of the desert. It’s beautiful, I love it. The next mural that we’re gonna go to is right around the corner here from the Mercado and it’s called A Dream of Sunday Afternoon in Menlo Park, which is derivative from Diego Rivera’s painting, A Dream of Sunday Evening in Alameda Park. People really gravitate towards Frieda because of her strong femininity and how she represented that.
In Mexico, Diego’s the man. In America, Freida’s kind of like, held on a pedestal and people are like, who’s the big ugly guy? He pushed her out there to be this amazing artist and put her in the spotlight. So the painting is a traditional approach to Day of the Dead, which is Dia de los Muertos and here in Tucson there’s a very strong presence that celebrates that. And then there’s also About two years ago I painted the very first mile wall painting and it’s on the south side which was the area in which I grew up in and I’ve always wanted to paint this wall and finally when I had everything in line Honda approached me and I did a Honda commercial in front of that wall and so the mural was made for a Honda commercial. The last location that we’re gonna visit is actually a friend of mine, Micah, he owns Mr. Heads Art Bar. It’s an art bar and a gallery kind of mixed in one. Right now, this one is inspired mural by Gustav Klimt and so there’s accents of gold with some, some of the design but it still has the elements of cactus people. She actually looks a lot like a superhero with all the gold accents. Yeah, I think so.
This particular Mr. Head’s Art Bar is actually a place that you can listen to live music? You can come listen to live music. Patio fills up, the music scene is here, it’s amazing. I have some really talented friends, the Jivin’ Scientists are here and they’re a rap group and also my friend Tom Wallbanks is a blues player, he’s here in town. But we go to any bar that that’s in Tucson, I would say The Flycatcher, Hotel Congress, the Rialto, and Che’s Lounge at any given night you can go listen to any genre of music that you want to go listen to and you know you can go into any little dive bar and there’s somebody in there playing blues. What’s the most remarkable change you’ve seen in this city in the last decade? Everyone’s becoming an artist, you know, not so much picking of a spray can you can leave that to me but, just working with their hands and creating beautiful pieces of furniture or creating hand brush paintings or pottery and you’re gonna find a lot of that in Tucson. And the food, I would even go as far as saying that I’ve had better food in Tucson than I’ve had in Mexico. So better can food in Tucson than Mexico City? I would say that. But if you come to Tucson you absolutely have to have a Sonoran hot dog. All right.
Rock, thank you so much for your time today. Absolutely, thank you for coming and I’m gonna show you the beauty of the city. So much fun. Thank you! Great! Thanks for reading. Discover a place where you can explore without boundaries at visittucson.org.