Artist Marvin Plummer captures iconic wave on Swift Street mural project
year ago, Marvin Plummer was gliding along the Pacific Ocean in a diving boat, snapping pictures of the waves, and one in particular caught his attention. It was what’s called the “middle peak” at Steamer’s Lane—a gargantuan wave known to the locals who surf there. Little did Plummer know that the famous wave would live on through his work as an artist and become a permanent fixture in our community
Fast forward to this summer when Plummer heard about a mural project that was going up on Swift Street, right near the railroad tracks. He turned in his submission along with a handful of other artists, and waited to see if he would get the gig. In July, Plummer learned he was the proud recipient of monies that would be given to him by way of a grant, and donations by Westside neighbors and businesses who support the makeover of what’s been a highly targeted graffiti location.
With paint cans galore, a roller brush in his hand, and a utility vehicle, Plummer set out at the beginning of August to beautify the Westside. His wide-stretching mural should be completed in early October.
What set him apart from the other artists, and made him the chosen muralist, was his mural mock-up of this “middle peak” wave photo that he had taken nearly a year ago. The deep, dark, imposing wave looks like it might crash right on you, as the viewpoint of the image seems like it’s from a surfer’s point of view. It’s a powerful image, one that represents the Westside significantly, and one that’s deserving of the mural space.
“I think Marvin’s [proposal] stood out,” says David Terrazas, a local resident who was on the submission panel for choosing the artist for this mural project. “We were looking for historical imagery … and Marvin’s [image] captures that, not only of the past, but moving forward.”
For Plummer, he admits that the panel took a risk on him—while he’s a longtime artist, particularly known and respected for his charcoal animal and human portraits, this is his first foray into murals, and into using paint on such a large canvas. He consulted several muralists on their style of transferring a small image to a large wall, but none of the techniques seemed to resonate with him, so he took his own approach, creating a loose grid on the wall, and using his photo as the inspiration. “I wanted to mimic a charcoal drawing,” Plummer says, “and I wanted to treat it like a painting of its own.”
When Plummer began to tackle the project, admittedly he recognized it as a problem to solve. The first four days of working on it he thought to himself, “how the hell am I going to do this?” he says. “I came across this amazing quote that said, ‘Go as far as you can and when you get there, you’ll be able to see further.’”
And that’s exactly what he’s been doing. The wall is about 128 feet long by 20 feet tall. It’s something of an intimidating task, but so far Plummer’s progress on the project is impressive. Take a look by driving down Mission Street toward Davenport. Turn left on Swift Street, and just as you cross over the railroad tracks, look to your left. There, you’ll see a stunning mural that does truly look more like a charcoal drawing than a painting. This is due in part not only to Plummer’s creative approach to art, but also to the paint he has chosen and its application. Using black and white paints, and a clear matte medium paint, it creates a quality of transparency on the mural. The difference between these two mediums, Plummer says, is “charcoal has instant gratification. Black to white and black to white, it’s that fast. … In paint … it’s a slower process. But, the permanence of being on the wall, and being outside is a really great thing.”
As his mural journey continues, each day Plummer sees progress, and so does the community. People stop by frequently to visit, comment, or just stare as the giant wave grows and grows. A homeless man stopped by one day to visit and show Plummer his own sketchbook. These moments show how art continues to transform and inspire people and this progressive Westside neighborhood.
“I think [public art] beautifies the city,” Plummer says. “It’s constructive as opposed to destructive. It gives artists opportunities, and it’s a form of communication, it’s not art hidden in someone’s house, in a hallway that you never see.”
Terrazas echoes his sentiment: “Public art shows the city’s personality and shows why this area is unique. … I’d love to have this be a place that’s recognized for our public art.” It looks like that’s just about to happen with “middle peak.”
For more information about Marvin Plummer, visit Marvinplummer.com . To contribute to the Swift Street Mural Project, visit any Bay Federal Credit Union and make your donation to member account No. 544023.