A project three years in the making is finally complete and ready for anyone in downtown Phoenix to admire. Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community resident Thomas “Breeze” Marcus and fellow artist Miles “El Mac” MacGregor completed a 45-foot mural featuring a portrait of SRPMIC member Unique Suniga in April. The mural is on the walls of a ramen restaurant located at 111 W. Monroe St.
The two artists decided to collaborate and applied for the project after an open call to artists by Artlink Inc. went out.
“Open call is basically meaning that anyone can submit and it’s a bit of a process. You have to submit your past work and a résumé; they base who they are going to select on that,” said Breeze. “We were chosen because they loved both of our stuff and our work spoke for itself on its own, but they really wanted to see us collaborate.”
The mural features a black-and-white portrait of the young SRPMIC member holding a rose painted by El Mac. Breeze’s intricate line work surrounds the mural, which wraps along the side of the building and to the front entrance of the restaurant.
Breeze’s unique style can be seen not only throughout the SRPMIC, but also in and around the downtown Phoenix area.
“I came up with the style of work that I do about 20 years ago. It was inspired by a lot of graffiti art and spray-paint art,” said Breeze about his painting style. “When I really started making it very intricate, with all the different lines going in and out of one another, it reminded me of watching our O’odham women making baskets and creating all those patterns in our basketry. To me it was almost the same concept. Even though it’s completely different, it’s still weaving and coiling and putting all these patterns together, so I feel like it’s partly inspired by that.”
When it came to choosing a subject for the project, the two artists felt they should paint someone local.
“I don’t think we really talked about it, but we both understood that it would be most fitting to paint someone O’odham, whether… from Salt River, Gila River or the Tohono O’odham,” said Breeze, “for obvious reasons, me being O’odham, but also Mac understood too that our tribes are the original tribes from this area and it would be good to have us represented in that way.”
The O’odham people are always underrepresented in the city, Breeze feels.
“We have Salt River and other communities, but with the city being here I think a lot of times we don’t feel that we have representation in the city,” said Breeze. “I still feel like when I am painting these murals it’s kind of like saying, ‘Hey, we’re taking our identity and our homelands back.’ When I paint any mural, that’s how I feel inside. I am claiming this for us, this is for our people, and we’re going to take it back and own it that way.”
Breeze and El Mac look forward to collaborating again in the future. Both would like to do a project in the Community if they get the opportunity.