Most muralists create their epic-scale works of art for perpetuity, intended to be enjoyed and studied for generations. Not David Ruiz.
“Everything about our work is meant to be temporary,” said Ruiz, one half of the PPRWRK creative team whose whimsical and often music-inspired wheat-paste murals are appearing all over town as part of MakeWork’s 10x10 installations for the HATCH Festival. “We prefer the impermance of it, it creates a buzz—it’s almost like job security.”
Indeed, Ruiz and his partner and girlfriend, artist Mary Margaret LaVoie, have been making a living and names for themselves creating temporary murals featuring Ruiz’s photography and LaVoie’s charming cartoonish illustrations for a variety of arts-related projects and clients across the country.
The duo’s creative collaboration was inspired by a TED Talk by French artist JR, who won the organization’s 2011 prize for pasting huge murals of extreme close-ups of faces he’d photographed on urban surfaces all over the world.
Like JR, Ruiz wasn’t interested in approaching galleries or investing in the expensive printing and framing it took to present his work.
“That’s too much extra stress,” he said. “His [JR’s] concept really inspired me and my girlfriend to try it.”
Their first pieces included large faces, such that of DJ Tyler Wallin, whose face was photographed and transferred to a 15-foot wheat-paste mural in an alley off Frazier Avenue near Coolidge Park.
During a four-month tour across the U.S., Ruiz and LaVoie have created an eight-foot fly swatter in the basement of a punk rock squat in New York, promoted the tour of Eliot Lipp with huge headshots of the DJ in North Carolina and created artworks for a permaculture farm in Austin, Texas.
The HATCH Festival and 10x10 offered the couple an open urban landscape in downtown Chattanooga and enhances their “legal guerilla” aesthetic. Ruiz is drawn to such daredevil artists as Banksy, but he finds getting permission makes his life much more tolerable.
“It started in a guerrilla way, but if you just ask permission, a lot of places will let you do it,” he said. “Why not just ask?”
During HATCH, which ended Sunday, PPRWRK’s murals have popped up on the walls of such businesses as Good Dog and Hair of the Dog, where a seven-foot giraffe temporarily graces the wall.
The murals are determined by the client and feature either Ruiz’s photographs or LaVoie’s illustrations. Working together, Ruiz and LaVoie first print out thumbnail images for a client to select and, depending upon the size, a mural can go up in less than a day.
While the work can be decidedly commercial and promotional in nature, it’s less advertising than art as attraction. “It’s more about the sparkle, less about advertising,” Ruiz said.
Next up, the duo are heading for Asheville, N.C., to create promotional murals for the The Festival of Gnarnia, a music and arts celebration.
In the meantime, enjoy the team’s murals around Chattanooga. Just don’t wait too long.