The Tenderloin just got more colorful, thanks to the magic of Marina Perez-Wong and Elaine Chu or Twin Walls Mural Co.. Not actually bio-family, Marina & Elaine are artists in sync repping their San Francisco community through large scale murals. Representing women in the arts by taking their practice to the streets and disrupting assumptions that women aren’t street artists, Twin Walls has made a name for themselves as powerful muralists with West Coast flavor. Most recently Marina & Elaine completed the Tenderloin: Stay Rooted mural in collaboration with CounterPulse. The mural features a colorful segment of larger than life dancers painted by Tenderloin neighbors and friends, as well as showcasing six amazing Tenderloin organizations: Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco, Skywatchers, Larkin Street Youth Services, Vietnamese Youth Development Center, and 826 Valencia.
Marina & Elaine continue to break down barriers with their work by highlighting their multi ethnic histories in their methodology and making. Twin Walls Mural Co. honor heritage as a form of empowerment, celebrating brown girl power throughout their work in SF & NY.
Justin and Zerena from CounterPulse recently chatted with Marina & Elaine on their artistic process and the beauty–and resilience–of working in the TL.
How did you get involved with the Turk Street Mural Project?
We were contacted by Erica Dixon from CounterPulse who was given our contact information from the SF Arts Commission. She asked us to consider sending in a proposal for the project and since it was such an exciting opportunity we had lots of ideas from the start.
What was the best part of this project? Do you have a favorite memory?
As usual, working with the community/community partners was our favorite. It was amazing to interact with a diversity of people from the TL and Bay Area. For Marina, having her students come in and paint, even for 15 minutes was super fun. Also our magic leaves painted by the community that sprouted and made our piece all the more special!
Was painting Tenderloin: Stay Rooted unique from other mural projects you’ve done? If so, how?
Definitely! For several reasons. Though we have both worked with parachute cloth in the past, this was our first parachute cloth project together and on this coast! And we loved it! We were able to work in our fantastic studio after hours which we normally are not able to do. Our studio is much smaller and harder to work on a larger scale. Also, even though this wasn’t our first mural in the TL, we felt like were able to connect with more of the neighbors than we had in our first TL mural, which we always appreciate and love.
Can you describe your artistic process and vision in painting the mural?
When we brainstorm ideas together for a project everything flows organically. We usually have a similar vision, ideas and images. We start researching and from there we sketch and compose the mural to scale. Usually we use the grid method for transferring a design to a wall and paint directly in the surface.
Our process and approach was different for this mural because of the scale of the wall as well as wanting to make it easier for the community to feel welcome to paint. We decided to use the parachute cloth method so that we could paint in the studio and have as many people work on the painting as possible. This project also helped us perfect transferring a design on the parachute cloth using Photoshop and projection. It was a dream to have the CounterPulse studio to use because of the scale and made projecting so easy.
The Tenderloin community and CounterPulse were important in shaping the entire design process. Our images of people in the mural are all inspired from CounterPulse dancers and performances which brought to life our vision of showing diversity and movement in the mural. The Tenderloin community represents the most diverse neighborhood in San Francisco and we wanted to reflect that in the mural.
We were just really thrilled that during the installation the community all came out to paint the leaves. Especially Barry who lives across from the mural wall. He painted many beautiful leaves and was just transformed when he was painting. His leaves reflected love and positivity and that really made us smile.
Can you speak more about the title of the mural, Tenderloin: Stay Rooted?
The title, Tenderloin: Stay Rooted, is our message to the Tenderloin that despite all the changes and development happening to our environment stay strong and rooted as a community. The Tenderloin is the heart of our city and it has always maintained its truth and resilience. We don’t ever want to see that change so this is our love message to the Tenderloin to never lose its heart and stay rooted as a community.
What are you currently working on? How can people follow your work?
We have some projects in the works, currently Marina is teaching at Oakland School for the Arts and Elaine works at Precita Eyes Muralists. You can follow us on instagram: @twinwallsmuralcompany and our website www.twinwallsmuralcompany.com
Meet the muralists on Wednesday, August 29, 6pm-8pm, in front of CounterPulse in celebration of the mural.
Cover photo by Robbie Sweeny