Daniel Anguilu is a Houston METRORail operator by trade and a muralist by passion. His work has appeared in Houston, Mexico, Peru, Spain, Italy and Turkey and is on permanent display at the Houston METRORail Operations Center.
Nichole Christian is a Wall Street Journal and New York Times journalist turned Detroit public art expert. She recently authored Canvas Detroit, which highlights the breadth and depth of public art in Detroit.
What unites these two is an appreciation for one of the most contentious and well-known forms of public artistic expression: graffiti.
Christian said graffiti is unique in its ability to communicate with its viewers personally.
“Street art has this way of stoking the imagination,” Christian said. “There’s a story happening, and I get to decide what it means to me or whether it even needs a label.”
For Anguilu, a Houston native, graffiti is a means of personal reflection and expression.
“My work is a documentation of my life, my growth spiritually and my political views,” Anguilu said in an interview with Houston
Although his large-scale, brightly-colored aerosol masterpieces draw from aspects of his Mexican heritage, Anguilu said his work is inspired by his interactions with the public more than his roots.
“I don’t understand inspiration very well,” Anguilu said in the same interview. “I get involved with people, ideas and concepts that I believe are necessary to highlight in public art or art organizations.”
Christian, whose Canvas Detroit focuses on the way that public art can shape the narrative of a city, underscores its universality.
“Graffiti has a powerful omnipresent component,” Christian said. “You may miss the latest amazing works hanging in your local museums or art galleries, but you’re bound to notice the 30-foot mural painted on the side of the freeway.”
Except that Rice students might miss both. It is no secret that Owls are a little too comfortable staying inside the leafy walls of campus, which brought Sandra Robbins, a Rice alumna (Jones College ‘59), and her husband to support a new Rice Public Art lecture series that aims to connect students to the local art scene.
“An important part of art is to bring new ways of seeing the environment and yourself,” Robbins said. “I am hoping that this lecture series ties the arts at Rice even closer to the whole Houston fine arts scene.”
This year’s inaugural program, which takes place Sept. 17, will feature Christian and Anguilu in a conversation moderated by local art historian and writer Laura Wellen.
Assistant director of Rice Public Art Emily Stein echoes the hopes of Robbins: that the program will galvanize students to join the arts conversation.
“We just really hope that students feel it’s accessible to them,” Stein said. “We want them to feel like they can participate.”
Christian said she hopes the conversation will illuminate the ways in which artists like Anguilu interact with Houston.
“I’m excited to discover how Houston is engaging artists and what questions and opportunities come alive, or have yet to be fully tapped, as a result of the creativity and contributions of artists like Daniel,” Christian said.