“Rock ‘n’ roll is a participatory sport,” Steven Van Zandt famously said, a member of Bruce Springsteen’s iconic E-Street band. “It ain’t passive. It ain’t TV. Go out there and rock ‘n’ roll and dance and have fun.” Street art’s a participatory sport too, with all the messy nuance an active involvement with life entails. LA-based Muckrock has known this since long before she became the internationally known street artist she is today. “I used to travel even before I painted,” Muck told me over the phone. “I was doing this whole traveling gutter-punk thing, traveling with groups of kids and riding around and sleeping wherever.”
Today, Muck’s rock and roll lifestyle has taken her all over the country, painting iconic characters from pop culture and her own career for communities of avid fans. You can find Muck’s work on the street from Venice Beach to Miami, and everywhere in between, but also in the homes of musical superstars like Dave Grohl. She’s best known for her “mucked up” portraits of legends like Nina Simone and Elvis and Larry Bird–all of which have also been tied to controversies with the communities these murals lived in. While Muck said she focuses on familiar faces because they’re universally resonant., society hangs tight to our icons–and any deviation from the norm strikes a nerve.
Muck was born mucky–she started writing graffiti and getting into trouble as an early teen, which got her sent from NYC, where she really grew up, to her parents’ homes in England and Greece. One such occasion on the Mediterranean island, Muck got her first look at Subway Art, Martha Cooper and Henry’s Chalfant’s notorious photographic bible of NYC’s vast train graffiti scene circa the 1980s. “It’s funny that I was from New York,” Muck observed, “but Greece was the place that I was first introduced to it–even though I had seen graffiti in New York, and had been in trouble for writing my name on stuff.”