Off the Wall
Internationally-known street artist draws outside the lines in the Borderland
The ‘Australian Banksy’ has left his mark on El Paso in the form of a four-story mural on the side of a Montecillo apartment building. Known for his street art and mural work around the world, Fintan Magee completed “Two Worlds” this February. The piece is part of the Montecillo Murals Project, curated by El Paso’s own EXIST1981.
Growing up in Brisbane, Queensland, Magee gained his reputation as a graffiti artist before receiving a Fine Arts degree. He’s known for using his surrounding as his inspiration. “Living in a place that is surrounded by water, it was really interesting seeing this parallel world that locals call the border,” says Magee. Which is what the people of El Paso and Juarez do, says Magee: “exist between two worlds.”
Best known for his tromp l’oeil piece “Moving the Pointless Monument,” painted onto a stack of shipping containers in Belgium, Magee is no stranger to incorporating his canvas’ backdrop into the subject of his murals. The Sierra del Cristo Rey, spanning the US/Mexico border, served as Magee’s inspiration for “Two Worlds.” The mountains depicted upside-down in the piece, align with the real mountains in the mural’s background. “I love the landscape,” Magee stated when asked about El Paso.
Although inspiration for Magee’s work usually starts off with a photograph he says he lets his surroundings speak to him in creating his murals. “I don’t see my mural as the initial person that was photographed but as a fictional character,” says Magee. “Two Worlds” portrays a woman wearing a Ganado print skirt, crouching on a chair painting the mountains upside-down—embodying his parallel world theme. Magee says he drew inspiration from the rich culture that comes with living in a border city, painting the figure to “represent a native character—someone the people could relate to.”
This round of paintings at Montecillo also included an additional piece from EXIST1981 entitled “Shape Shifter,” as wells as multiple works from San Diego artist Christopher Konecki. Konecki’s 3-piece mural—featuring a time-themed deconstructed wristwatch, roadrunner cuckoo clock, and deflating hot air balloon—spans three sides of a stack of shipping containers at TI:ME, Montecillo’s shopping district.
Originally from El Paso, EXIST1981’s goal is to, “Shine a light on our local artists alongside the internationally recognized artists that we’re bringing to Montecillo.” His mural, painted on a shipping container set against the neutral desert backdrop, pops with bright sarape stripes centered by thick Ganado lines. “I always enjoy making (what some would consider) an eyesore into an attraction,” says EXIST1981.
The new murals received a warm reception from residents of the newly developed ‘urban village’ located just off Mesa between Executive Center and Sunland Park. “I think it’s a great addition to the complex,” says Montecillo resident Gabriel Virgen. “I think it’s beautiful…I hope they do more like that.”
EXIST1981 will continue the mural project with new pieces going up at TI:ME, alongside existing murals by Ernesto Yerena and Sergio Hernandez. “While living in El Paso my exposure to art was limited,” says EXIST1981. Feeding off of that experience, he says he’s excited to see the art scene progressing here in El Paso and says he feels honored to curate the Montecillo Mural Project, “[This is] a great opportunity to bring inspiring art to El Paso.”