ABA: Prolific Muralist Leaving Mark on Las Cruces
Hundreds of motorists a day pass through the intersection of Mesquite Street and East Lohman under the whimsical gaze of two cartoon characters from the 2006 Disney animated movie, Cars. The mural, which wraps around the corner of a non-descript building, is the work of Las Cruces mural artist SABA.
“Yea, they’re famous,” SABA says with a chuckle during a conversation inside his funky, winter-chilled Barricades Culture Shop on South Solano. The rambling, mural-adorned building’s interior is filled with painting supplies, skateboards, a silk-screening press for specialty, underground t-shirts, a gallery space, and rooms sporting a kaleidoscope of color courtesy of community graffiti artists and aspiring muralists.
SABA considers himself a graffiti artist at heart, having left his illegal work on many a wall as a youth. But since 2009 when he moved from Albuquerque to Las Cruces, SABA has been utilizing his artistic talent to create murals commissioned by property owners looking to make their businesses stand out.
Some of his murals, such as his renowned Water Is Life and Honor Treaties mural on the rear wall of A&A Tire Co. at Amador and South Solano, reflect his Native American heritage. SABA, who descends from the Navajo and Jemez tribes in the Four Corners area, says painting and drawing images have always served an important role in human history. “It’s in our DNA.”
SABA says he likes to promote painting but believes most kids and much of the general public think of spray painting as illegal. He invites youth and adults alike to visit his shop and outdoor paint garden to express themselves artistically and learn various painting techniques.
“I invite people in and want to share the love,” says the bespectacled muralist. “I love to paint.”
SABA again this May will host the 7th annual Illegal? Arrowsoul Art Show—a three-day live music and live art extravaganza featuring muralists from throughout the United States. Last year, roughly 100 artists came to Las Cruces to exhibit their art and collaborate on murals painted throughout the city at the behest of willing property owners.
“I personally enjoy looking at murals or different kinds of imagery out in public rather than a dirty old grey wall,” SABA says. “All I do is bring color to a black and white world.” – Rob McCorkle