Updated is a new Mission Local series that is doing just that: updating old stories to see what has happened to the people and places we have written about.

Ten years ago, the women in Marina Perez-Wong’s all-female Precita Eyes class painted a mural at Lucky and 24th streets, and Mission Local was there to catch it in the video we are reposting here. 

“It’s good for any woman to be out painting on big giant walls and show no fear,” Perez-Wong said at the time. 

It’s advice that could describe the life the 38-year-old muralist has led over the last decade —  forming a company with her friend and fellow artist Elaine Chu in 2013 and fighting an ongoing bout with cancer. 

Perez-Wong and Chu, who have been friends since they attended San Francisco School of the Arts together, started Twin Walls Mural Company in 2013. 

“We didn’t realize how much fun it would be.” Perez-Wong said. “We have an incredible flow between the two of us. There is no ego from the start to the end of the project.”

For a time, the company was bicoastal. Perez-Wong moved to Brooklyn after the two women started Twin Walls to live out her teenage dream of becoming a New Yorker. Then, in 2017, she returned home. Business at Twin Walls in San Francisco had picked up, and that year the muralists completed 16 projects, including a mural at Hotel Kabuki.

“We were nonstop that year,” Chu recalls with a laugh.

They continued to paint together. Then, on August 9, 2019, Perez-Wong got her diagnosis: she had stage-four breast cancer. 

“It was a shock when we found out that Marina had cancer,” Chu said. “I was worried about my friend and everything we had built together.”

“I thought I had lost everything,” Perez-Wong added.

As Perez-Wong began chemotherapy, the two friends started The Rebirth of Coyolxauhqui, a mural on 18th and Valencia. Eventually, working on the project during her treatment became impossible for Perez-Wong. 

“There was one flower on the mural in particular that was giving Marina a really hard time,” Chu said. “I knew Marina wouldn’t be able to get to the flower for a long time, but I wanted to give it to her. It was her piece.”

Perez-Wong finished the flower. 

“Art has always relaxed and healed me. It’s magic. We will things into existence,” Perez-Wong said. 

The mural came to symbolize her recovery – one that has been a community effort. 

Rebirth of Coyolxauhqui cancer fighting mural

The finished The Rebirth of Coyolxauhqui mural on 18th and Valencia. Photo provided by Elaine Chu.

Chu and two of Perez-Wong’s other close friends, Pablo Cristi and Nancypili Hernandez, started a GoFundMe on her behalf, which has already raised $45,000.

“It took off pretty quickly because everyone loves Marina,” Chu said. “Her friends would do anything for her.”

Perez-Wong has been out of work for the past year and is using money from the fund to pay her earlier medical bills and continued treatment.

She starts her next round of chemo in about a month, and remains upbeat.

“I probably won’t be able to climb scaffolding when I start painting again,” she jokes. Then, reminiscently, “I love being up high.”

Perez-Wong’s GoFundMe is still active here.

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