Animal instinct

Raul Mejia

Photo By anne stokes

Some people choose to be artists, so they take a few art classes and post some black-and-white pictures on their blog while they chain-smoke Lucky Strikes. Then there are those like Midtown local Raul Mejia, who are chronic sufferers of art. They see every mundane item of everyone’s mundane existence and are compelled to express every emotional meaning, or lack thereof. But “chronic sufferer” makes it sound so negative. Mejia is just a dude who gets hyped on Chihuahuas, painting and seeing other people getting hyped on painting, too. Hell, when I met up to talk to him and his girlfriend, Natalie Marsh, about his stuff at Streets of London, our conversation got so excited he spilled beer all over me. You don’t come out of bad interviews soaked in beer—it just doesn’t happen.

For all the Sac art lovers who don’t know you, what is your medium of choice when it comes to your art?

Raul Mejia: I would say it’s a mix, you know? I use what the job calls for. Mainly acrylic on wood or spray paint.

Say I’m some rich yuppie looking to put some edge in his living room, and money is no object. How would you decide what to paint?

Mejia: I’ll sit down with the person, you know, like you and me right now, and I’ll ask them what they want to see and more importantly, what don’t they want to see. It’s almost like a tattoo artist, how they go over things. You filter out the ideas that are great and take out the terrible ones.

Are there reoccurring ideas or images that make their way into your work more often than not?

Mejia: I’d like to think that tigers are a reoccurring theme. All kinds of fish, from koi fish to betta fish, great white sharks, women … and elephants! I ultimately like to create visual metaphors for human emotions and interactions … like one, I have Mother Earth holding back this tiger and the tiger is growling and trying to tear out of her arms—and that was a metaphor for when will Mother Nature let go of her beast and destroy us all? Hopefully never! A lot of my art is about the Earth, and it’s almost like I’m just waiting for the Earth to just take a crap on us.

The year 2012, it’s going down. It seems like you’re well-connected in the underground scene.

Mejia: I try to let my art do the talking; I don’t do the talking for my art. I don’t see myself as an artist. I just see myself as a creator, you know? My life is art and I just let that … no, wait. My life isn’t art! My life is Chihuahuas!

Natalie Marsh: His life is art. Everywhere he goes he’ll see something or say something about the feng shui. Or (speaking to Mejia) you’ll go and rearrange people’s living rooms.

You’re an interior decorator?

Mejia: No, it’s not even like that! I’ll just walk into the room and be like, “Bro, this is all wrong, let me fix this for you.” So I fix up their living room or whatever, and at first they won’t say anything, but later I’ll get a call saying, “Dude, my place looks great! It feels so open in here.”

Well, you grew up doing art, so that’s how your brain works.

Mejia: When I was a little kid, all I did was draw. I didn’t do homework or anything, and somehow I made it through. I was selling artwork before I knew what it was. When I was in elementary school and The Simpsons were hot, people asked me to draw them as a Simpsons character hanging out with Bart and I’d say, “50 cents, dude.” So I’ve been slanging art before I knew what it was.

Marsh: He went through a phase when I first met him, when he was working on his I Am Animals show, and I asked him, “Why do you always paint animals?” He told me, “When I look at people, I see animals.” So people always ask him, what animal am I?

Mejia: And I’d drop it on them! I’d tell them they’re a toucan. Or I’d say, “You look like a piranha.” Some people get kind of bummed out when they hear it.

What would I be?

I would say a wolverine. It’s in your eyes and your ears. Look at a wolverine and think about it. Not the comic-book character.

Wolverine? Hell yeah. When’s your next show?

I’m having a Dia de los Muertos show on October 30 till November 2. It’ll be from 8 p.m. till 2 a.m. on those days, except on the last day, it starts at 6 p.m. It’s going to be an open reception at [Image VIP Lounge, 705 J Street], on the bottom floor. If you’re looking for a Halloween show, this is the one to be at.