“I don’t want anyone to see me put the mural up. I want the mural to suddenly appear. We just need to get a plaque to let people know it’s hand drawn,” says artist James Thistlethwaite in an interview in May 2018
From New York to Los Angeles, and now in Laguna Beach, the idea of painting a public mural is a truly ubiquitous one today. James Thistlethwaite’s mural Aya, by contrast, addresses street art as a site to explore the progressive possibilities between medium and the exterior wall. To begin to understand Thistlethwaite’s body of work is to grasp a desire to both centralize the role of charcoal and graphite in large-scale art and explore the mystery of the jacket or hoodie. James Thistlethwaite’s mural expands the genre of street art by returning to the simplest of tools and operating within a void in street art.
The experience of seeing his mural includes shedding one’s own assumption of what street art is made with. The twenty-six-foot mural depicts a female figure dressed in a yellow raincoat and is made with thirty-six hand-drawn panels carefully arranged and pasted to the wall like movie posters. The way the viewer moves to see the mural, first from a distance and then up close, resonates with the idea of discovery; each step a process of espying more detail. Thistlethwaite’s process is not only labor intensive, but also transformative. By combining charcoal and a mystery sealant, Thistlethwaite dislocates the medium from a state of temporality to a state of semi-permanence, on par with spray paint.
Aya anchors herself within the Summer of Color initiative in Laguna Beach, by the usage of the yellow raincoat. A hoodie or jacket, a central motivation of the artist, occurs often in Thistlethwaite’s work. The hoodie is representative of the idea of multiple narratives. In this mural, it can act as an imaginative catalyst into an inhabitable utopian world. The viewer finds themselves asking: who is she? Where is she from? What is her relationship to the city of Laguna? Experimenting with medium and the clothing, Thistlethwaite’s mural embraces the art-driven city of Laguna Beach; hinting at the relationship between art and utopia—where a single emblem can convey the passage to a utopian world.
At the time of the interview, artist James Thistlethwaite had just completed the largest hand-drawn mural in the nation, possibly the world. Privately funded by the Honarkars, with partnerships with [seven-degrees] and Montana Colors, Thistlethwaite joins five other artists in Laguna Beach, CA in the Summer of Color. The Summer of Color initiative is focused on invigorating the creative spirit and providing additional brilliant temporary pieces of art for visitors and residents to see and appreciate during the summer months. Thistlethwaite’s mural will be on view until 2023.