Women, blacks, latinos and asian artists help drive a mural explosion in western Dallas

Artists make their mark in West Dallas away from the white walls of museums. They do so through street art displaying dozens of murals, many by women, people of color and others embracing the rebellious freedom of public murals and graffiti.

Muralist Hatziel Flores is one of them. Street art “welcomes everyone. It never discriminates,” said Flores, an artist from Mexico City.

His latest work, a fusion of art and graffiti, shows a native woman in shades of purple and pink with her Hatziel brand of comics. It is part of the curated cluster of work in West Dallas, which has been expanding for years.

“Street art is an equalizer,” said Will Heron, organizer-curator of the last two dozen murals, which were rolled out last month during the fourth annual Wild West Mural Fest.

“It’s super important to me that a wide range of views and styles are expressed,” said Heron, an artist himself with a distinctive black-and-white style. “Graffiti country can feel male heavy. It makes me so happy to see the Wild West party give voice to male, female or non-binary artists. It does not matter what race you are. ”

Angela Faz posed for a portrait in front of her mural in Dallas on November 17, 2021. The piece focuses on the Arkikosa River, a name given to the Trinity River by the native Caddo. "I feel an affinity for it and a connection to perform this industry" says Faz.  As a Dallas resident, Faz feels that by creating this piece, she can regain some of the story for herself.
Angela Faz posed for a portrait in front of her mural in Dallas on November 17, 2021. The piece focuses on the Arkikosa River, a name given to the Trinity River by the native Caddo. “I feel an affinity for it and a connection to performing this industry,” Faz says. As a Dallas resident, Faz feels that by creating this piece, she can regain some of the story for herself. (Rebecca Slezak / Staff Photographer)

Graphic artist Angela Faz was first in conflict over the mural party. Faz grew up in West Dallas and has seen gentrification gallop through the neighborhoods. But the opportunity proved irresistible, and the artist used it to tell the story of the Arkikosa River, the original Caddo name for the Trinity River.

Faz painted a long fence in calm blues with the meandering Arkikosa River and a rising moon. A pottery with rising smoke reads, “My name is Arkikosa.”

“I’m proud Dallas has something like that,” Faz said. “Art was not something you saw when you grew up on daily walks here.”

The social justice activism surrounding George Floyd’s brutal death in Minneapolis last year raised the issue of the treatment of blacks and Latinos in all aspects of society, triggering street paintings across the nation and the world and a kind of street journalism surrounding injustice. Floyd, a black man, was killed by a white police officer – an act captured on video.

Faz praised this movement for recognizing the many color artists who deserve attention and have not received it in the largely white male-dominated collections and exhibition selections from the museum and gallery world.

Jeremy Biggers posed for a portrait in front of his mural "Legacy" in Dallas on November 18, 2021. The mural illustrates a flame that went from his hand to the hand of his 3-year-old daughter. "Many murals that I work on are bread crumbs left for my daughter all over town, which are small love letters to her" says Biggers.
Jeremy Biggers posed for a portrait in front of his mural “Legacy” in Dallas on November 18, 2021. The mural illustrates a flame that went from his hand to his 3-year-old daughter’s hand. “A lot of the murals I work on are bread crumbs left for my daughter all over town, which are little love letters to her,” Biggers says.(Rebecca Slezak / Staff Photographer)

The artist praised the non-sexualized portrayal of women in many of the murals as a refreshing focal point. Others, Faz said, were simply inspiring in their use of composition, colors, styles, and themes, giving particular praise to artist and filmmaker Jeremy Biggers for his positive depictions of black culture in large-scale murals in West Dallas.

Last year during the mural party, Biggers painted a large mural of black men and boys adjusting each other’s do-cloths – a metaphor for the crown and for black men caring for each other. This year, Biggers painted an arresting mural on Sylvan Avenue next to a building: “Legacy” pays homage to fatherhood and his 3-year-old daughter Tesla.

The mural shows the Biggers’ open hand sending an orange and yellow flame to Tesla’s small outstretched hand.

“Even when I’m not around, I want something for her, like little breadcrumbs around town,” Biggers said.

It should happen. The work is on an established building that houses many businesses, including an art gallery. The mural is designed to be permanent.

Artist Stephanie Sanz paints a mural of two women embracing the Wild West Mural Fest.  (Photo by Jeremy Biggers, courtesy of Wild West Mural Fest)
Artist Stephanie Sanz paints a mural of two women embracing the Wild West Mural Fest. (Photo by Jeremy Biggers, courtesy of Wild West Mural Fest)(Jeremy Biggers)

Nearly a decade ago, city officials persuaded key developers to allow legal graffiti on a set of warehouse walls on Fabrication Street. They call it the “free zone” because graffiti artists will be largely free of prosecution in an area where one of the largest property owners, West Dallas Investments, has given its approval.

The graffiti spread like kudzu.

“My love for public art is because it is accessible to everyone and free,” Heron said, referring to the fact that there is no entrance fee.

Fabrication Street murals hold a special spirit, Heron said. ‘There is no gatekeeper, no head of organization and no one approving of what is happening in the free zone. It is a different level of freedom, ”he said.

Stephanie Sanz’s mural of three cowgirls with guns from a previous mural festival sits on an old building and was mentioned as a must-see in a self-guided mural tour organized by the Dallas Museum of Art during the pandemic. “Cowgirls really put me on the map in Dallas,” Sanz said.

This year, the artist is back with spray cans and latex paint for a nearby Singleton Boulevard mural by two women embracing.

“My work is definitely about women and feminism,” said Sanz, who praised the Dallas party for giving female artists a large showcase. “I like portraying women where they are in power.”

Artist Daniel Yañez pays tribute to his father-in-law, a vaquero from Mexico, in this work for the Wild West Mural Fest.
Artist Daniel Yañez pays tribute to his father-in-law, a vaquero from Mexico, in this work for the Wild West Mural Fest.(Dianne Solis)

In his work, the artist Daniel Yañez paid tribute to the man he has known for decades as a hero and a true vaquero from Mexico.

The man is his immigrant father-in-law, who taught Yañez the importance of family and is a great teacher for a new generation: his grandchildren, the artist said.

The mustache-clad, sombrero-clad Juan Gonzalez is shown in a mural on a metal warehouse door.

Each plane of his face and dress is divided into a different color with a pattern, and behind him are red and turquoise mountains and purple cacti.

“People like him get no fame,” Yańez said. “I want to show who he is to the world. It’s my way of saying what he means to the family.”

Artist Rose Rodriguez is working on her mural as part of The Wild West Mural Fest in Dallas on Thursday, October 22, 2020. Rodriguez, a tattoo artist, was inspired by the Wichita people and their use of tattoos.
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A mural festival in West Dallas welcomes viewers to drive past, pandemic relief

Tattoo artist Rose Rodriguez has a remedy for the pandemic-weary: escapism. Rodriguez painted delicate brown paint on a portrait of a Wichita Indian woman against a shining copper sky. Her large canvas was of metal, the front of a warehouse located around the corner from Dallas’ bulging outdoor graffiti gallery on Fabrication Street just west of downtown. The work was partly spray can, partly house paint. “Art is very therapeutic,” she said as she climbed up a silver ladder.

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