From graffiti artists to trompe l'oeil masters, painters working in public places are satisfying an intrinsic desire to claim space. Dating back to pre-recorded history, as in the Lascaux caves in France, we see humans’ desire to use mark making to tell stories that create a sense of place and community. We see the same impulse in modern mural art. In Sonoma County, we are lucky to have numerous and diverse examples of this public art medium. Contemporary murals are created in many ways. They can be spontaneous responses to the times. They can also be well-planned and funded pieces that may be the result of city initiatives or public funding for art. They also can be community-driven projects that aim to create unity and bring vibrancy to neighborhoods or to highlight issues of social justice.
These very public artworks can provide a vehicle for change in how communities see themselves. Murals can draw attention to often overlooked neighborhoods and celebrate a vibrancy that exists in liminal public spaces, bringing pride of place and a sense of collective ownership to residents. Fortunately, public reception of murals has improved. Murals once were seen as a double-edged sword, either identifying blighted or down-market communities or as a harbinger of potential gentrification to come. These ideas have changed, and our region is now embracing murals for the many benefits they provide to communities.
For this exhibition, we have chosen a selection of murals, ones that we could never fit into the physical gallery at Sonoma State University, to highlight the flourishing of the medium in the county. As a long-time advocate for public art, I am excited to showcase them here online in collaboration with the University Art Gallery at SSU.
-Spring Maxfield, guest curator