For Steven Hull, the artist behind the newest installment in the Murals of La Jolla public art program, creating a mural is a huge step out of the ordinary. Typically a sculpture, painting and installation artist, Hull is based in Los Angeles and produces abstract and sometimes controversial works.
The mural, named “Man, Myth & Magic” went up June 4 at 7509 Girard Ave., above Quality Cleaners and replaces Catherine Opie’s “The Shores.”
“I’ve never done a mural and am a little nervous about it, to be honest,” he said. “But I thought it would be good to try new things. We needed to find something that would interest people without offending them and reproduce well. The actual drawing is 5 by 7 inches, so my hope is that it has the same charm when it is billboard-sized as when you are holding it.”
The piece selected by the Murals of La Jolla Art Committee is a vibrant illustration of humanoid figures emerging from a landscape.
Committee member and Director/CEO of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Kathryn Kanjo, opined, “Murals of La Jolla continues the tradition of inviting notable contemporary artists to create dynamic compositions for The Village. Steven Hull’s arresting image — a surreal landscape — combines painterly qualities and graphic strength. The piece’s psychedelic hues and dreamlike imagery are a counterpoint to the photographic and text-based approach of several other murals.”
Hull added, “We went through a lot of images when they asked me to do the mural. At the time, I was making a lot of work that wouldn’t be suitable for a public art project, but I still wanted something that was worth talking about and worth thinking about.”
His more controversial pieces, typically shown in art <FZ,1,0,17>galleries, have socio-political references, including depictions of the Klu Klux Klan and Donald Trump’s proposed “border wall.”
And while he has never done a mural, Hull has experience with public — very public — art projects.
“I did a merry-go-round puppet show installation in Santa Monica. There were giant sculptures that turned into puppets. As the puppet show was happening, there would be live music. When the show wasn’t going on, there was modular synth music playing and they were just sculptures on a merry-go-round,” he explained.
Hull also constructed the interactive, circus-themed art as part of a recent Festival Supreme music-and-comedy event presented by comedy rock duo Tenacious D (Jack Black and Kyle Gass). “It mostly takes place outside, but it also used the Shrine Auditorium, which has 50-foot-high ceilings, and they wanted to take advantage of that. Jack Black approached me and we started talking about the things we could do in that space and it ended up being a circus. We did a 44-foot-high windmill and you could ride around it and inside it. It turned out great, but it was a huge amount of work.”
Looking to embark on something new, he said he was excited to be part of the Murals of La Jolla program.
“It’s a great program and I hope (‘Man, Myth & Magic’) is interesting in context with other murals. It’s great to take these artists and show their work in this way. I appreciate that those who might not otherwise seek out art will get a chance to see new works,” he said.
The Southern California native said he got into art in his late teens as he was looking at subjects to study in higher education. “I looked at things I could do and would still want to do when I’m 80,” he explained. “I wanted to be in theater, but I was really shy, so I took theatrical make-up class and did all the plays. I loved all the painting involved in theater make-up, so I went to art school and took a painting class. That was really where it started.”
At the time, he was living near Long Beach with a great-aunt who supported his artistic endeavors. “She lived in a blue house, with a blue roof, blue wallpaper, blue rugs, blue car and a pink refrigerator,” Hull shared. “I visited her after I ran away from home and she wasn’t doing well, so I stayed to help her. She gave me my first sets of paints and was very academic so she encouraged me. I took care of her until she died, and because of that, she paid for me to go to college.”
Before he committed to a college, he spent some time in Austin, Texas, working with established artists. “I learned a lot from doing that,” he said.
When he was 24, he applied to California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles and earned his degree. He has been showing and producing across California ever since — once at a downtown San Diego museum.