Victor Ving Goes to the Wall

5 mins read
Victor Ving works on the Altadena Mural. Photo: Lisa Beggs

Muralist Victor Ving and photographer Lisa Beggs fell in love in New York City, where Ving was a street artist creating public spray-paint art that was questionable in terms of legality.

“I was in the do-it-first- then-ask for-forgiveness mode, so I got into my share of trouble,” he admits.

Early in their romance, Ving asked Beggs to hit the road in pursuit of an ambitious dream: to create in all 50 states a community-fueled mural themed to vintage tourism postcards. The mural concept features an Art Deco esthetic, crowned by the iconic “Greetings from… (Chicago, Moab, NOLA, etc.)”

Maybe because Ohioan Beggs’ family is in the RV business, she said yes to the road-warrior adventure. Ving, who grew up in Queens, recalls with a chuckle that he’d never driven anything so huge, though, in reality, their 24-foot chariot is reasonable in scale, if rather ungainly for navigating the centuries-old, narrow streets of Gotham.

That was in 2015. Flash forward: after touring and muraling continuously for more than five years (with an involuntary break during the pandemic), they married in 2019 and became Pasadena residents and parents to a young son, Felix. So far, they’ve completed over 65 murals in more than 27 states and will soon resume touring intermittently to finish the mission.

Special Pasadena Reveal

The mural being unveiled on January 11 is themed to vintage travel decals rather than souvenir postcards and thus is not part of their larger Greetings Tour vision. Ving and Beggs donated this smaller work as a gift to their city, with the cooperation of the property owner and the business proprietor who share Ving’s Chinese ancestry.

Not coincidentally, the juicy oranges depicted have a particular resonance in centuries of Chinese cultural tradition as well as the obvious reference to our region’s agricultural history. In China, the color orange summons Yang, warm masculine energy and brightness associated with gold for wealth, prosperity and good luck. And the citrus fruit itself is often exchanged as a New Year’s gift.

“Pasadena Sunset Symphony Mural” also features our area’s wild green parrots in raucous flight against a gradient pink-to-violet sunset, exactly like those we’re currently experiencing in clear winter skies.

The mural recently thrilled attendees of the Rose Parade as depicted here in the video of his creative process.

Ving and team have created many other murals in our area at locations including Highlight Coffee, Altadena Hardware, and Grocery Outlet in Altadena. He’s currently working on a mural for the Convalescent Aid Society (CAS) located on Foothill Boulevard in East Pasadena. Incidentally, CAS will soon be expanding to Burbank.

The creative tipping point for Ving came when he painted his “Greetings from Chinatown” in New York City. “That project really sparked in me the understanding that when communities invest emotionally in something, they take ownership. When I was painting that first one in Chinatown, these really old Chinese guys would come by and ask me questions in Chinese. By the end, they were so happy and so proud that they began introducing it as ‘their’ mural.”

In the 20th century, murals often served as public service announcements of sorts, sometimes expressing opinions and depicting images missing from mainstream media. Midnight murals often gave a visual voice to controversial, revolutionary and subversive public messaging in many places. Then and now, murals often speak for people who feel unseen and unheard, especially in BIPOC communities.

“We’ve never had any major vandalism on any of our murals.”

Victor Ving

Controversy isn’t Ving’s currency, although he is actively committed to community engagement and participation. With this in mind, his next, larger Pasadena mural, slated to begin work in November 2024, will incorporate thematic suggestions from the public input that Ving has been collecting via his Greetings Tour website. He is also soliciting collaboration with local artists, photographers, and others who might be interested in participating in the project on a volunteer basis.

Perhaps Ving’s insistence on actively engaging the people who walk and drive past his murals daily works as a magic amulet of protection.

“We’ve never had any major vandalism on any of our murals,” he says, eyebrows raised in mild surprise. “I think this is because people feel connected to the work because they were consulted during the process.” But just to be safe, Ving coats his murals with a sealant specifically formulated to resist spray paint.

Spray paint remains his medium of choice. One reason: many exterior walls, especially in California, are stucco, a rough surface with more nooks and crannies than a Thomas’s English Muffin, that’s difficult – Ving says impossible – to paint with brushes.

Ving is acquainted with Cleon Peterson, a Pasadena muralist who recently found himself in the center of a firestorm of public outcry for his shocking-to-some mural on the wall of Unincorporated Coffee Roasters in Altadena.

“We have a lot of friends in common, and I respect Cleon’s vision and originality,” says Ving. Peterson’s mural was said by some to have been inspired by the fighting male black forms on classical Greek pottery. The locals didn’t buy that lofty analysis, instead decrying the violence depicted as potentially racist and, at the very least, a major buzzkill. Consider what Peterson says on his website:

The individual walks the streets feeling a sense of alienation and that society, co-opted by media technology, politics, and an undercurrent of hate and confusion, is unraveling. The ideas sold to us for so long that technology and human compassion will save us from our dark nature look more like magical thinking.”

Cleon Peterson

As we go to press, Peterson’s mural is now completely painted over after several defacings and months of community protest.

Sometimes, though, Ving shocks himself. He explains that his technique includes a process called “pouncing,” which essentially is brushing a temporary pigment onto a surface using a pattern of tiny holes in a massive piece of paper. The pigment—chalks, in Ving’s case—is brushed over the holes, leaving behind a connect-the-dots “cartoon” or template outline, which serves as the basis of the spray painting to follow.

“Sometimes, when I’m not paying attention, well, let’s just say I’ve shocked myself more than once.”

Victor Ving

“I use a vintage machine called the Electro Pounce,” says Ving. “This is a really cool piece of equipment used by all the old-school sign-painters. It sends an electrical shock through the paper and burns tiny holes, forming the pattern. Sometimes, when I’m not paying attention, well, let’s just say I’ve shocked myself more than once.”

The location of Ving’s planned “Greetings from…” Pasadena mural has not yet been confirmed, although a wall near the recently refurbished Ice House comedy nightclub is a strong candidate. Stay tuned.

“Pasadena Sunset Symphony Mural” is technically a part of Ving’s Greetings Tour series, “a tangy, upbeat sneak preview of things to come.” So, show up and represent, enter the raffle, and treat yourself to a Taro Oreo Smoothie or a Jasmine Milk Tea with the Bubble Puffs that Ving says are just like those enjoyed on the streets of Hong Kong.

What’s happening:

  • Free public event hosted by the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce
  • Ribbon-cutting for Pasadena’s newest mural! “Pasadena Sunset Symphony Mural” by Pasadena muralist Victor Ving
  • Meet Victor and the mural team from Greetings Tour
  • Thursday, January 11, 2024, 3:00 PM
  • Location: Bubble Puff & Tea, 1543 East Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena 91106 – across from PCC
  • Attendees may enter a free raffle to win a signed, framed giclee print of the original mural artwork ($500 value!) to be gifted by the artist at the event.
  • With support from The Fine Arts Club of Pasadena, Visit Pasadena, Pasadena Chamber of Commerce
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Victoria Thomas

Victoria has been a journalist since her college years when she wrote for Rolling Stone and CREEM. Victoria describes the view of Mt. Wilson from her front step as “staggering,” and she is a defender of peacocks everywhere.
Email: [email protected]

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