Pony Wave’s viral Venice Art Walls mural speaks a language of love in the time of corona

By Christina Campodonico

Street and tattoo artist Pony Wave (@ponywave on Instagram) brought her talents to Venice Beach this March and shared this evocative image of love

Pony Wave feels “alive” when she does street art. The Russian-born, vegan tattoo artist, street artist, and model, probably best known for her turn on the reality tattooing competition show “Ink Master,” moved to LA seven years ago to pursue her artistic dreams. She recently made a splash on the Venice Art Walls earlier this March with her evocative image of two lovers passionately kissing — their lips covered by flowered face masks.

This enigmatic and unusual image of affection has since been painted over, but went viral, capturing the spirit and contradictions of our present pandemic moment. Even as social distancing separates us from our friends and loved ones, the scourge of COVID-19 has also brought out collective showings of love for our fellow man.

Neighbors across Los Angeles have greeted healthcare workers coming home at night with hoots and hollers of gratitude. Serious seamstresses and 3D printer experts across the Westside have stepped up to make medical-grade face masks and personal protective equipment gear or PPE for healthcare professionals (see our cover story on pages 8 and 9). Businesses like R6 Distillery have converted portions of their operations to make hand sanitizer for first responders (see page 7). And thanks to a citywide temporary housing initiative, military veterans have a place to rest their heads as the storm of this pandemic rages on (see page 5).

Now, as LA Mayor Eric Garcetti mandates that city residents and essential workers wear face coverings in public to protect each other from contracting COVID-19, Pony Wave’s image — which popped up days before the mayor urged all Angelenos to wear face masks — feels even more prescient and timely. Its passionate depiction of a face-masked kiss is like a reminder to love others by wearing a new kind of armor.

Pony Wave shared her process and what the mural means to her with The Argonaut.

What inspired you to create the mural of two people wearing face masks and kissing at the Venice Art Walls? 

This is a unique time right now. The world is slowing down.

This time is definitely scary and unusual, but at the same time, this time is opening something we haven’t seen or understood before. Right now, we need to think about what we are doing with our lives, our planet, our time. People easily forget about important things until it touches them. So right now, the universe put us all in this situation to combine us. So it is time for all of us to think! Look around and into yourself. It’s the best time to wake up.

Why put your mural on Venice Beach? 

Street art is a very unique type of art because it can be seen by many people, but it doesn’t stay for long, especially on the Venice Beach walls — anyone can cover it the next day.

So I did this mural devoted to today’s problem because it will be covered after days, and it’s all going to be a history under fresh layers of paint. Like all that we are going through right now: It will be past one day.

What was your process to create the mural?

I used acrylic, water-based paint (nature-friendly). The whole process was fun. I’m obsessed with street-art culture. I feel alive when I’m doing it.

Why do you call yourself Pony Wave? 

Long story short: My friends started to call me “Pony” when I was 16 because I’m small. I’m 5’1” tall. And “Wave,” it is from “new wave,” like new wave in art, music…

Why is it important to you to bring veganism to your tattoo practice? 

I bring veganism to everything. Tattooing is part of me.

This is a huge part of my life. This is not about diet. It is about mindfulness. I truly believe that veganism can change the world. We can fix health, ecology, economy, karma. It starts from your plate, and then you are slowly awakened. Try, and you will see. We need this right now even more than ever.

What inspired you to become an artist? 

I think that I was born like this. … For sure, my father played an important role. He is a very talented artist and musician. But he didn’t want it to be his job. He has his own reasons. But he definitely gave [me] his talent and definitely helps me a lot to become who I am now.

I did a lot when I was a child. … I danced and toured with a dance group when I was a kid, then art school, then music, then acting schools. I was a busy kid, as many kids at that time in Russia were.

What did you learn from your experience on “Ink Master”?

I just wanted to prove to myself and others that anything is possible. If you want to move to your dream city — do it. If you want to do something but you are scared that you are not good enough — still just do it. You never try, you never know.

What message do you hope to impart through your mural at Venice Beach? 

Please feel it in your heart! Let your heart [lend] its own meaning! This is art. Art speaks in different languages, and it touches every heart differently!