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Jeff Soto: Slauson Owl Wall Mural

What begun as a wall mural about history, heritage, roots and love was transformed into a mural about adapting to change, reclaiming a space for art, rising up, not in anger but a right to exist.

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The mural took just a few days to complete in mid July on the corner of Slauson near Normandie in Los Angeles.  The stunning Slauson Owl stood proud for just 6 days before it was tagged, probably by a couple of young kids trying to be "cool".

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By the end of the month Jeff unexpectedly returned to the Slauson Owl as it raised like a "Phoenix into the Slauson Cat."   He has said, he will not return again to this mural a third time, but we were able to grab a few moments of his time to find out why he returned the second time.

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POW: When you saw the mural had been tagged what was the first thing that came to your mind?

Jeff:  I knew it would happen but thought it'd be up a little longer than 5 nights. I first heard about it on Instagram but didn't see a photo till a day later- so at first I thought maybe it was a reaction against Converse or someone who doesn't like the mix of commerce and art. Converse really let me do my own thing and be myself, so I thought it was weird, you know it wasn't a blatant Converse ad at all... When I saw a picture of it the next day, it was just a tagger.

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POW: What inspired you to go fix the mural?

Jeff:  Well at first I was not going to repaint it. It was a fun project, I got paid, and I got good photos. It is part of making art on the streets, and I figured more tags would show up, and then someone would buff the whole thing out. But there was a thought to play the graf game and go over his tags with a wildstyle burner. But, I left graffiti a long time ago because of the egos, and doing this would bring me back into that world. So I decided to make the piece evolve. I also wanted to reclaim that wall. Thousands of people drive by every day, it's in a prime location. Maybe that's the graffiti in me talking.

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POW:  Why did you change it from a owl to a cat?

Jeff:  They're creatures of the night, predators, and they're smart. I've been painting both, and morphing them together in some cases. The Owl was more about the neighborhood and the family history in the area, the Cat is more of the agressive side of things in my own family and things that happen in that area. South Central was really cool to me, people waving and honking their horns driving by, but we also saw a huge line of police cars driving down Slauson to make an arrest, seriously it was like 20+ cop cars. So it's a complicated area. Many polite people, but also homeless beggars, thugs, and thieves. My piece felt the sting of the area so it evolved into a more aggressive animal.

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POW:  You mentioned the owl symbolized your connection to the area and the ancestors that lived in the neighborhood.  How does the meaning of the mural change for you as it switches from the owl to a cat?

Jeff:  I liked the idea of the mural becoming more angry when it was defaced. I guess when it is defaced again I need to paint a shark with teeth, no a shark with huge teeth and also it's made out of teeth! More spikes, I don't know. It doesn't really matter, it will get defaced, that's a certainty. As long as I get a good photo, it doesn't matter. I will not be returning to this wall again though.

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POW:  It seems your passion for painting murals has been re-ignited, how does this affect your fine art painting if at all?  As it takes you back to the years before your fine art career started, does it influence what you are painting now?

Jeff:  I painted graffiti for a decade until 1999 and then took a ten year break. In 2009 I made some wall paintings in London that had nothing to do with the graffiti I had left, and it felt good. Working in my own way, with the newer spray paints was so much fun! So my passion for painting large on walls was reignited a while back. The last five years I have painted murals all over the world and I hope to keep it up. It does influence my gallery work, but I'm not sure how yet. I'll see it in a few years when I look back! Working on murals does remind me of painting graffiti over twenty years ago. There's still an adrenaline aspect to finishing a wall...

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Thank you Jeff, we are also excited to see how your work evolves over the next few years.  Speaking of evolving, the new Seeker Element is here!  Get a first peak of the 7th Element "Aether."

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Aether is seldom seen and works in strange ways. It is a mysterious elemental, hiding in the dark reaches of space. It is amongst the most powerful of elements. Aether rarely interferes with the Universe but is able to change the course of entire galaxies.

Aether will release on Thursday, August 7th at noon PST for 24 hours only at PrintsonWood.com

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