Venice artist celebrates her unique style
By Bridgette M. Redman
Jules Muck has learned to celebrate who she is as an artist and who she is as a person.
A first-generation immigrant, Muck was on the streets of New York at a young age after her parents returned to their home country. She had no thoughts of being an artist then and making money for what she did was far from her mind. Her goal at the time was to avoid being arrested for creating her art.
As a street artist, Muck’s graffiti was made anonymously in the middle of the night. She started out just doing stylized words, often just the last name she had adopted: Muck.
Now, years later, she has a studio in Venice and her work is in high demand. She just bought her third house using money made from her art. A self-made artist, she encourages young people to pursue art if it is their dream, no matter how much others might discourage them or try to minimize what they do as a hobby.
“You don’t have to give up,” Muck said. “You just have to work hard and do it every day. If you do what you love and you open up, it works out. The community takes care of me 100% — that has been true wherever I go.”
In addition to numerous walls in Southern California, Muck’s work is displayed on her Instagram account and on her website. She credits the artist Lady Pink for taking her under her arm and making her believe she could do more than what she was doing.
“Lady Pink took me on as an apprentice,” Muck said. “The way she orchestrated my apprenticeship, as I worked for a living, she shifted me and gave me work that helped me navigate and slowly transitioned me to being my own thing.”
It is a connection that has persisted through the years. Muck said even this past summer when she was in Upstate New York, Lady Pink, who is one of the pioneers of graffiti art, made sure she had work.
“She has helped me and so many other young women and men find their way into the art world,” Muck said. “We’re all people who didn’t have access to a formal art education. We had no nepotism, no family connections. She’s so amazing in that way. She has no fear, to be able to hand off work like that.”
Where art meets crime
Muck said that before Lady Pink, she didn’t believe that she was worthy. She ran around at night under the cover of anonymity, painting and then running away with no one knowing it was her.
“My intense urge to create was bad and illegal, it was very hidden,” Muck said.
Then things began to change. She was arrested and her family found out what she was doing. She started to see people talking about her work in AOL chat rooms. They always referred to her as “this guy” and that “he” did all these crazy things.
“It made me start coming forward as a woman and I had this idea to paint female walls with all women and to celebrate that and to let it be known we were girls,” Muck said.
Fast forward to 2001 and Muck was one of the first women invited to paint the Wall of Fame in New York. The following year they gave her a massive wall and asked her to invite all the women she knew. They all came down and painted together.
Mucking up Venice
Muck moved to Venice and immersed herself in the community there. People responded to her art and Venice would become the “most Mucked city” in the world, with her murals going up everywhere.
“I have to say that all of Southern California has felt very art-friendly,” Muck said. “I liked Venice because they let me do a lot more art and most of the people there were really receptive to it. When I moved there, there were a lot of artists. I can’t really say that now. Most of my friends are gone. They moved to the east side or all over.”
She said she loves the energy of Venice and will always be inspired by it, but because of the scale and amount she paints, she has to move around. If she stayed in Venice, she would run out of space.
Muck’s work has taken her all around the world. She’s painted in New Orleans, Miami, Indianapolis, Michigan, anywhere that has work for her. She recently painted a Syrian refugee camp. Sometimes she is surprised by the reception she receives.
“For me, the most bizarre was Indianapolis,” Muck said. “I couldn’t believe how receptive they were to my art.”
She was supposed to spend three days there a few years ago, but she ended up staying longer and doing more than 100 murals. She was in demand from businesses and residences. After she left, they threw a huge mural festival.
“People wanted art on their houses, their garages, their cars,” Muck said. “They were so thrilled with this kind of mural work that they had seen when they traveled to Portland and California and New York, that they wanted it and now they have it.”
Pandemic painting online
During the pandemic, Muck found herself in isolation like so many other people. She quarantined with the family of her boyfriend and needed to come up with things to do. She partnered with a friend of hers who was an out-of-work web designer. Together, they created coloring pages of her art and an online tarot reading.
“It was a fun way for us to both stay busy,” Muck said. “Every day I released a coloring book page.”
For the tarot reading, Muck invited different artists and musicians to make up little sayings for each of the images that she painted. People can ask a question and click on the deck to get an image and saying.
More recently, she’s been back doing mural work. People who have been stuck at home have been wanting residential murals and backyard work.
Demand still surprises
Sometimes Muck’s work takes paths she doesn’t expect. Several years ago, she was friends with a young man who had a brain tumor that he decided not to treat. Billy loved picking through garbage to find what he saw as treasures. He’d get really excited about it.
After he died, Muck started to notice the trash, things her friend would have been thrilled with. There were all sorts of bulk pieces on the side of the road — coaches, refrigerators and other furnishings. They were taking a long time to be picked up and they would call out to her.
She started painting them, something she said hearkened back to her roots of not having permission, but avoiding getting arrested. One time the police pulled up and watched her paint. She said they seemed confused because it wasn’t illegal but it was odd.
Muck painted a lot of trash and took pictures of them to gather them into what she called a Muck Book. The intent, though, was that like Billy, they were temporary and made in tribute to his life.
“What made me stop was that people started collecting them,” Muck said. “People were collecting diseased couches and moldy refrigerators and putting them in their houses. It became a bummer. It was within an hour of me painting and it was gone to someone’s house. I lost the thrill. I’ll do it every now and then when I’m inspired, but not how I did during that time period.”
Passing on the mentoring
The project Muck is most excited about currently is working with the Queens Project in Watts. It is a chance for her to do for young women what Lady Pink did for her. She’s working with young women and they are painting side by side as she teaches about art.
“It’s amazing, the young girls I meet,” Muck said. “They start crying when they meet me. They are so sweet.”
It’s what inspired Muck to start posting more pictures of herself as she works so that young women could see that she was a woman and that women can do graffiti art. When she talks to them, she encourages them to see their art as worthy.
Living into her name
Even Muck’s adopted last name is part of her celebrating who she is rather than who people wanted her to be. Her grandmother would call her a “mucky pup” because she was inherently messy.
“I’m a slob,” Muck said. “I was shamed for it as a kid and as an adult. Muck is my celebration of who I am. I’m messy, I make a mess. Most of the things I own have paint splatters. My hair often isn’t brushed. I like to show a story of beautiful things coming out of the muck. It’s just a dichotomy of things. I think that I’ve always embraced it because so many people pushed against it.”