Artist Brian Barneclo’s mid-century modern design brightens up downtown
Flip Cameras are all the rage right now. Celebrities and common folk are toting them around, capturing day-to-day video, without having to be technological geniuses. A select group of artists has been chosen to put their designs on said Flip Cameras, and at the forefront of the mix is local Brian Barneclo who also just installed a stunning mural in downtown Santa Cruz. The 37-year-old muralist/Flip Camera designer/artist has painted an enormous, Santa Cruz-inspired, urban stylized piece on the adjacent wall to the ever-popular Old School Shoes in downtown Santa Cruz.
Barneclo proves that artists can have full careers doing what they love. But don’t ask him to get all “artist statementy” on you. That’s not his thing. And don’t ask him to wax philosophical on ‘being’ an artist. Because, as he explains, it really is about the art, and one should let the art speak for itself. And that’s exactly what his mural does at the corner of Pacific Avenue and Cathcart Street.
Barneclo, who first got his start making signs and doing other projects for a commercial art company in San Francisco, has comfortably eased himself into the position of a full-time artist. He’s done murals all over the Bay Area, and was contacted by Santa Cruz’s City Arts Program Manager, Crystal Birns, and asked to beautify the wall near Old School Shoes.
He turned the formerly dull, brown wall into an urban delight, mixing a contemporary painting style that looks to be influenced by Pablo Picasso and graffiti art. The expansive mural features snippets of Santa Cruz life, from marine animals to redwoods to the Cooper House, to bathing beauties at the beach, to a glimpse of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and more. It’s a captivating and refreshing sight downtown, where if you look closely, you’ll see much more public art around, sculptures, other murals, and such, thanks to Birns, who’s at the forefront of instituting public art around town. This approach to art has many benefits—it provides income to talented artists, it cleans up downtown, and it brings focus to how art can fit right in among tennis shoes and sidewalks.
Barneclo spent about two weeks painting the Old School Shoes mural. It’s a time frame he’s comfortable with, acknowledging the influence of watching professional, legal, legitimate street and graffiti artists who know how to paint fast and efficiently. It’s a skill that he’s mastered.
He describes his work, and this painting as a sort of mid-century modern design meets sign painting. But even with that gesture of a description, “I would rather have someone else [describe the work how they see it],” he says. “People come up all the time and say it looks like the Jetsons, or Matisse, or Gauguin, or African masks and tiki stuff, and they’re all right. … But [describing my art] is the last thing I want to think of. I just do not talk like that,” he admits. “Everything you’d like to know is in the art. Everything is in the painting.”
But what he will explain is that the idea of the mural was to represent Santa Cruz in a way that’s classic without being cliché. “I was listening to The Ramones when I was painting,” he says of the experience, which led to including some improvisational artwork into his mural during the process.
After spending two weeks here, his summation on our town is succinct and perfectly reflective of his perspective: “I really love Santa Cruz,” Barneclo says. “Without being cliché, I like the Santa Cruz attitude, the people, the beach, the environment, the atmosphere.” And of course, he must like the art.
Brian Barneclo’s Santa Cruz-inspired mural can be seen on the Old School Shoes building at the corner of Pacific Avenue and Cathcart Street. For more information about Barneclo’s work, visit brianbarneclo.com. The artist is currently on a venture to raise money to paint a 600-foot-long wall in San Francisco. For more information on that project, visit systemsmural.com.