“Warrior Odyssey” is a mural-in-progress at the Kinney Hotel
A lot has changed in Venice since Tony Alva rose to fame as a member of the Zephyr skateboard team in the mid-’70s. But at least two things haven’t, he says — the creative spirit of Venice and the liquor store next to what’s now the Kinney Hotel.
“Before my days of sobriety I was a local at the liquor store,” says Alva, pointing to the Marina del Rey Liquormart. “We used to skate to this liquor store all the time.”
Alva will soon be a permanent fixture here in a different way thanks to artist Robert Vargas, who’s painting a literally larger than life portrait of Alva on the side of the Kinney Hotel.
The portrait spans the entire side of the building perpendicular to Washington Boulevard and is based on two photographs of Alva by Dogtown chronicler Wynn Miller: a black-and-white photo from 40 years ago of Alva skating in an empty Mar Vista pool, and a more recent color portrait of Alva, now 59.
Talking with Alva about his personal journey and seeing Miller’s photographs inspired Vargas to combine the photos into one image for his mural, titled “Warrior Odyssey.”
“That’s when I thought to incorporate the earlier version of Tony and the current version of Tony, and combine them to speak about the past and the present,” says Vargas.
For Alva, who modeled for Vargas during a live-paint event at the Kinney Hotel on Nov. 30, being able to collaborate with Vargas on this project and see his legacy preserved in paint is not only an honor, but a way to vibe with another creative soul. Call it an artist’s heart-to-heart.
“I know that there’s a spiritual connection between our creativity,” says Alva, who paints occasionally when he’s not carving up sculptural air swivels with his board. “And for us, I think the experience is about being in the moment. It’s a precious moment just to even be here right now and be a part of this.”
The feeling is mutual for Vargas.
“Being here right now — just the atmosphere, the landscape — I mean I’m here halfway up to the palm trees, every day I see an amazing sunset. Today was epic, having Tony up there with me and just to connect from one creative to another. It’s a hugely spiritual thing for me. I think Tony’s right about how we connect, and we’re definitely brothers in that way.”
— Christina Campodonico
See Robert Vargas’ “Warrior Odyssey” take shape at the Kinney Hotel, 737 Washington Blvd.