On the wall

Circus Circus 24-Hour Mural Marathon

Artists Derek Miller and Asa Kennedy stand near Killbuck's "Strongman."

Artists Derek Miller and Asa Kennedy stand near Killbuck's "Strongman."

Photo/Josie Luciano

The Circus Circus 24-Hour Marathon takes place 10 a.m. on July 10 to 10 a.m. on July 11 at Circus Circus, 500 N. Sierra St., 329-0711. The public is welcome throughout the event. For more information, go to www.circusreno.com/entertainment/mural-marathon.aspx.

“Why are murals so cool?” That’s like asking, “Why is denim so popular?” or “Why is Prince so good?” The more pressing question comes when you stand in front of a mural, surrounded by color, looking up at an enormous image and wondering, “How the heck did the artist do that?”

For those who want answers, there is the Circus Circus 24-Hour Mural Marathon. Now in its second year, this local competition gives artists an opportunity to paint some of their best work on some of the best real estate on South Virginia Street. Muralists have exactly 24 hours to cover seven 19-foot-by-14-foot panels on the east side of the casino. Cash prizes are awarded for the top three murals, and the whole city is invited to watch.

Normally, observing an artist at work is an exercise in literally watching paint dry, but the exciting thing about blowing up the scale of a piece, condensing the time for artistic process, and involving not one but eight artists is that you get more than big paintings—you get a performance.

Last year’s performance involved a lot of paint-mixing, image-chalking, detail finish-work, and baking in the 105 degree weather. In the end, the heat turned out to be the biggest limiting factor for most competitors.

“[It] was the hottest day of the year up until that point,” said last year’s winner, Rex “Killbuck” Norman. “We kind of took it easy during the first part of the day. … The really good stuff happened from about midnight to 4 a.m.”

Now Killbuck’s “Strongman” is covered in white paint along with the rest of last year’s murals in preparation for new artwork. But unlike the recent paint-overs hitting the street art community rather hard this past month, these annual whiteouts are part of the deal from the beginning.

“This is all part of the fun for this—this is agreed to,” said 2014 participant Pan Pantoja. “I know another piece of art is going on it.”

Last year’s third-place winner, Joe C. Rock, added, “I think it’s the nature of street art, that it comes and goes.”

This year, the artists replacing the inaugural images include out-of-towners Heidi Barnett, Anthony Padilla, Danielle Rumbaugh, and Stephane Cellier, as well as four local artists: Bryce Chisholm, David Cherry, and a team effort between Asa Kennedy and Derek Miller.

The artists all have game plans for the event. Cherry will paint a scale model in the coming weeks. He, Chisholm and Barnett will also line assistants to help out during the marathon. Padilla plans to “sleep in a cocoon” and “eat a duffle bag of bee pollen” before the competition.

As for images, those coming to watch the Mural Marathon can expect to see everything from blackbirds and art nouveau monkeys to a giant life form pollinating the galaxy and the Queen of Hearts herself. Plus, a few surprises.

Chisholm likes to keep his painting plans flexible. “It’s up in the air still. It’s going to be one of my girls looking up with hope and inspiration in her eyes. I kind of figure it out as I’m going.”

But Team Kennedy-Miller seems to be the true sleeper this year, refusing to disclose the subject of their mystery mural. “It’s topical, it’s crucial, it’s beautiful,” said Miller. Maybe they are painting Prince. Either way, the murals will be up soon enough, ready to showcase our city for another year.