Painting the town ill

Elise Kaplan

On the sleepy Labor Day streets of Nob Hill, the alley between Flying Star and the Slice Parlor attracted quite a crowd. Three artists jammed out to hip-hop while keeping their brushes to concrete on the 100-foot long wall. Everyone passing by stopped to watch, dance, talk and take pictures.

Elise Kaplan

The psychedelic street art is a mishmash of images and colors reflecting the styles of the collaborating artists: Jaque Fragua, Ernest Doty and Ryan Montoya. A sickly green skeleton hovers in the smog of a nuclear reactor above the message “A good Indian is a live Indian.” A large Native/east Indian spirit guide with four eyes looks on. The hands of God descend from the sky controlling marionettes.

Elise Kaplan

Fragua says the artwork is meant to draw attention to environmental and cultural degradation. “We wanted to put everything under one umbrella,” he says. “This includes all of the issues that face the way indigenous people live in the area and around the world.”

Fragua says he sees the piece as a parody of what he calls “art slavery” along Route 66 where billboards advertise Indian wares for tourists. “We’re advertising the truth,” he says. “It’s something that doesn’t require money to look at, just attention.”

The mural is part of a larger show called Bomb the Canvas, featuring graffiti-style art around Albuquerque. The fourth-annual expo ended Sunday, but the street art lives on.