Photo by Steven King
Victor “Marka27” Quiñonez is an international street artist who “works at the intersection of graffiti, vinyl toys, contemporary art, fashion, and design.” Marka27 partners with major brands and downtown districts to create paintings, murals, drawings, mixed-media pieces, and more.
Victor “Marka27” Quiñonez’s colorful works blend the worlds of street and pop culture with Mexican and indigenous influences. The artist has coined his signature style “Neo Indigenous.” Marka27 honed his skills and developed his trademark style long before “street art” was a term. When we spoke with him, he said the reason it’s so exciting to contribute a mural to Downtown Worcester is that he hopes it will inspire the next generation of artists.
“I want to give people a new point of view and decolonize their perception of beauty in art and culture.”
Today, Marka27’s murals are some of the most sought-after in the world. The artist currently maintains a studio in Brooklyn and splits his time between there and Cambridge, where he and his wife and creative partner, Liza, live and run their award-winning creative agency, Street Theory.
If you live, play, or work in Downtown Worcester, you likely have seen his mural at Federal Plaza Garage at 570 Main Street.
To celebrate Marka27 and his contribution to Downtown Worcester’s art scene, we recently reached out to him about art, life, and the importance of creativity in a community.
I grew up drawing cartoons, like Transformers and Mighty Mouse, as a kid. When I was in high school, I began painting graffiti that later introduced me to murals. My high school teacher, Sylvia Lincoln, introduced me to Mexican muralists like Diego Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros. That and knowing that graffiti started with black and brown artists gave me a sense of pride and purpose for painting.
I took spray paint from my father’s garage when I was 13 and tried painting my name under a bridge. I sucked back then, but I was excited to learn. Growing up, I was inspired by graffiti first. I wasn’t exposed to traditional artists growing up in East Dallas and had no access to museums or galleries. I was fortunate to see graffiti by artists like OZONE, MOSQUITO, and movies like Beat Street, Wild Style, and Lee Quinones were a big inspiration, as well as Dondi, Skeme, and Lady Pink. I was excited to see people who looked like my community painting graffiti. The book Subway Art and Spray Can Art had a huge influence on me. I was also inspired by the freight trains that had artists from the West Coast, like King157, Poesia, Katch from Hawaii. I lived near train yards as a kid and eventually would grow up to paint trains.
Everything I paint on the street is self-taught. I had a good friend named O.G. Chino from LA who showed me some techniques and Ozone who taught me about spray paint colors and spray tips. I graduated from SMFA (School of the Museum of Fine Arts) but mostly took design classes and learned everything I could about graphic design. I would say that design is my other form of art. I was fortunate enough to work in the fashion industry, designing for Converse and Nike, and collaborating with major brands like Levis, Microsoft, Heineken. I even had my own line of designer vinyl figures called “minigods.”
I’m Mexican. It’s in my blood, my heritage, my people. Mexico is known to be one of the most influential cultures that transformed the mural movement. That’s why the Whitney Museum in New York recently held an exhibition titled “Vida Americana.”
Here is a statement from the Whitney:
Mexico underwent a radical cultural transformation at the end of its Revolution in 1920. A new relationship between art and the public was established, giving rise to art that spoke directly to the people about social justice and national life. The model galvanized artists in the United States who were seeking to break free of European aesthetic domination to create publicly significant and accessible native art. Many American artists traveled to Mexico, and the leading Mexican muralists—José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros—spent extended periods in the United States executing murals, paintings, and prints, showing their work and interacting with local artists. With nearly 200 works by over sixty Mexican and American artists, this exhibition reorients art history by revealing the profound impact the Mexican muralists had on their counterparts in the United States during this period and how their example inspired American artists both to create epic narratives about American history and everyday life and to use their art to protest economic, social, and racial injustices.
I would say studying the building and logistics first, then creating a composition that works naturally within that space. The content of the mural requires my research for images, references, and sketching.
I compose a digital mock-up and sketch directly onto the wall or building that I’m painting. This helps get an idea of scale. Depending on how large the wall I would project or use a grid method to layout a subtle loose sketch before adding any details.
A new point of view. I want to decolonize their perception of beauty in art and culture.
I believe it’s better to give other artists that opportunity, especially any that haven’t painted in Worcester yet.
Please support local businesses. Check out Chasu* in Worcester, and Redemption Rock if you want to see some of my work in person and have great drinks and food. Everyone should also visit Underground at Ink Block in Boston’s South End—it’s a great place to see street art, graffiti, murals, and social distance safely. Also, follow @streettheorygallery on Instagram for updates on future projects. Thanks for your support, Wootown!
*Editor’s note: Marka27 is referring to Chashu Ramen + Izakaya, located at 38 Franklin Street in Downtown Worcester.