After about three-and-a-half weeks, the paint has finally dried on Jet Martinez’s new mural shared by Foreign Cinema and Sherwood Design.
Hosted and commissioned by both businesses, the work was unveiled on a breezy Tuesday evening in the outdoor area shared by the designers and the restaurant at 2534 Mission St.
The mural, called “Amate,” is based on a reinterpretation of traditional Mexican folk art. The title refers to a type of bark paper used for painting by artisans throughout Mexico. In Spanish, “ámate” also means “to love yourself.”
Amate-inspired paintings usually feature birds, flowers or other colorful plants, as well as whimsical, terrestrial animals.
Martinez is a Mexican-born Oakland resident who has painted other large-scale works in New Zealand, Indonesia, France, Mexico, Brazil, Japan and the United States. In his work, he’s found that these motifs are universal — resonating with people of different backgrounds.
Overlooking the Sherwood Design patio, his 70-by-45 foot mural features a 25-inch psychedelic red stag that represents chaos, several flowers, as well as three birds: Two of them are similar, one is slightly different.
While Martinez didn’t originally have a backstory for the mural, the narrative transpired as soon as he began painting.
The original concept is that there are simply two male birds and one female bird. “They’re angling at each other, and in comes chaos,” he said. “Let’s see what happens, right? Who’s going to get to mate?”
As Martinez started working, a different thought came to mind.
“I was listening to NPR, and was hearing a lot about kids and cages at the border,” he said. “Again, two birds and one that is slightly different. You can make it an analogy to humans. It’s the same fucking thing. Here comes chaos. What will happen?”
The mural is not an answer, but rather a question and an “evolving poem” — just like the Mission, a neighborhood Martinez views as still trying to hold onto its Latin heart despite gentrification.
And while “Amate” encompasses Mexican culture and the Mission neighborhood, the mural, sited on private property, is not viewable from the street.
In working on the design, Martinez realized that the deer’s head “just pops out over the roof,” he said, “as if it’s saying, ‘I’m still here!’”