Every year, Pow! Wow! Long Beach brings artists from all over the world to beautify various locations of the city with murals. Some of the paintings are also made from artists from Los Angeles and even a couple of locals like Shane Sun.
Sun is a homegrown painter and gardener, born and raised in Long Beach, who spent last week painting the alley side wall of Wide Eyes Open Palms at Fourth Street and Cherry Avenue. The mural, which was done using spray paint, depicts two fluorescent pink hands wrapped snugly around the earth.
“[It asks,] ‘How can we shape this world we belong to? And what can happen when we join hands?’” Sun said. “The crux of our survival is our ability to cooperate with each other and our cooperation relies on trust and our trust relies on love.”
But, furthermore, the crux of our survival is also our hands, Sun would explain.
“We don’t have big canine teeth like jaguars, so we build a knife. We’re not fast like rabbits so we need to build traps,” he said. “Our whole means of survival is really centered around our ability to build and utilize tools.”
You can tell he believes it, because the human hand is a recurring image in Sun’s artwork. This is no surprise, because Sun seems to be a tactile guy.
In addition to painting, Sun is a devoted gardener. At 24 years old, he has the callused hands and firm grip of someone much older, and chances are on any given day, they are covered in paint or soil.
“Working with the earth is so deeply rewarding, and it just feels right,” Sun said. “I have a deep spiritual belief that humans are in their right place on this planet when we are stewarding the earth.”
He also paints images of hands because he says the human body is always relatable.
“My whole point is that I want to convey some type of positive, unifying message,” Sun said. “If what I’m trying to do is share or exchange a feeling through an image, then I need as many people to be able to relate to that image as possible.”
Though he says everyone will derive their own meaning from it, he feels he has accomplished his goal if it stirs some type of positive feeling in someone.
“It’s a simple idea, but it has such a deep meaning to it,” said Pow! Wow! volunteer Myrone Pasco. “I think his art really talks to a lot of people and it definitely relates to me. It’s really colorful and it really pops out.”
Sun designed the painting with Wide Eyes Open Palms, the coffee shop beside it, in mind. Sun says he saw them build their business from the ground up for over five years, including when they were a pop-up shop saving money for their current space.
“That’s the beautiful thing about Long Beach in particular, it’s a small town and if people see you going for something the people and the city will back you up. [The painting reflects that] testament to the power of human cooperation and passion.”
His appreciation for the city goes beyond the painting and is incorporated into his gardening as well. He works for a landscaping company that re-institutes native plants to local gardens, a company he discovered at one of his art showings. And like the plants he grows, he says he belongs here.
“I am deeply proud of my city and I just feel like a product of it. I’m very proud to live in Long Beach,” Sun said. “The city is just sort of this amalgamation of everything humans can be. I think Long Beach, in particular, is sort of having a cultural renaissance. There really is a lot of activity going on and within all the chaos a lot of beautiful things are sprouting up.”
Sun finished the mural on Saturday along with the rest of this year’s painters. To visit the sites, use the map found at http://www.powwowlongbeach.com/2018-map/