The canvases of Argentinian painter Francisco Diaz, better known by the pseudonym “Pastel,” tend to be a few stories larger than the average. His work inhabits the sides of buildings in places all over the world, from a remote village in Italy, to the heart of Scandinavia, to our own capital city of Baton Rouge.
Diaz’s murals are recognizable at once and typically depict towering, colorful flora juxtaposed against a dark, muted background. Simple and startling, his oeuvre is a reminder of our place in the natural world. “It’s a really native and reactional thing,” says Diaz. “I started to put them on a really big scale to glorify them and the idea of preserving the local things.”
Diaz describes his work as “urban acupuncture.” Just as the traditional Chinese practice can improve the way you feel via minute needles placed strategically over the body, art can be an “acupuncture for the city,” he says, because ephemeral actions can have continuous impact. He views his art as both an actor and reactor of the changing urban landscape, and a mechanism to organically improve public space in overlooked neighborhoods. The work is a critique of the role of government, ownership of collective space, and how people interact with the environment in metropolitan settings.