Against the Wall

Joerael Numina's Mobilize Walls project takes on Trump's proposed border wall

“A Cup Holds Water So Do We” is located in Santa Fe. (Courtesy

"I'm not really an art-school guy," artist and muralist Joerael Numina tells me over coffee. "I was always more of a graffiti guy, out of West Texas. But there weren't many writers, so I had to travel to Dallas to study the work."

Numina grew up in San Angelo, Texas, a city of roughly 100,000. He says it's similar in some ways to Santa Fe (size, geography, region)—though far less liberal. For a fan of graffiti and street art, it wasn't exactly an ideal location; he was drawn to the world of graffiti because of the history, the artistry and the narrative elements. Dallas, meanwhile, was far from his last stop. From there, he spent time in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, learning more about spray art in abandoned factories. Eventually he found himself in Los Angeles where, he says, being an artist seemed trickier than not. After a particularly bad day in 2015, he and his fiancee made the call to relocate to Santa Fe.

"I don't know," he says, "I just wanted to get out of the pollution and the traffic and go somewhere where art is appreciated. My fiancee and I were traveling a lot then, to Seattle, to Austin, and every time we came back through here, it just made more sense."

Joerael Numina (Alex De Vore)

Almost immediately, Numina found himself in a residency at the Santa Fe
Institute, that gloriously venerable think tank from which pan-scientific ideas are born.

"I was illustrating complexity science," Numina says. "It's a multi-disciplinary science that's highly influenced by network science and computational data. For instance, collective computation: computing how animals move across the Alaskan tundra; finding commonalities in things you may not think are relative. … They were looking for someone to
illustrate, and they met with me, and I saw patterns with that and graffiti; I saw a commonality."

Numina also worked as an apprentice to local tattoo legend Jeffrey Pitt, but given his genesis in spray art and the massive graffiti murals undertaken by artists in cities across the globe, his natural evolution took him back to huge-scale art pieces. He's done several across the country in cities like Washington, DC, and Macon, Georgia. Santa Fe is home to Numina work as well: The mural at the corner of Second and Lena Streets, on the outside of the former Cloudcliff Bakery, is his. There's more work to be found on the former Santa Fe University of Art & Design Campus—and that's not counting temporary murals at places like the
Center for Contemporary Arts. It's entirely possible you've driven or walked by a Numina without realizing it.

What might also not be readily apparent is that his murals are interconnected through his Mobilize Walls project, a sprawling multi-artist undertaking that borrows from complexity science and aims to create more square footage of
artistically capitalized walls than might potentially be taken up by Trump's
proposed border wall.

Think of it like an aggregate for murals' square footage, wherein the dimensions of any participating artist's wall, regardless of location, becomes part of the overall square footage of the project. Numina estimates that the project sits at roughly 50,000 square feet, with submissions from artists around the region like Santa Fe's Vitanie Berger, Tuke One of Denver, Phoenix artist Jesus Rodriguez and others throughout California.

"The thing is, we're trying to counter everything the wall's about," Numina tells SFR. "Being decentralized, colorful, transformational and inclusive—it's my goal to be international."

Numina is open to any submissions through his website and says he's more interested in artists being able to craft their own narratives than asking for specifics of any kind. Artistic autonomy is paramount to the project, after all, though Numina says he's wide open when it comes to the prospect of local collaboration.

"It's like the yoga relationship," he says. "It's always good to open yourself up to new experiences. There's … always going to be tension, but it creates strength and awareness—friendships, relationships in general, are about collaborations in space."

For now, Numina's on the lookout for available walls (SFR has a few in mind that could use some sprucing-up, so we assume everyone else does, too), and you can contact Numina to donate materials like paint through the website or by emailing

"I remember the first articles that came out [about Trump's wall], and he was proposing, I think, 480 million square feet," Numina says. "That needs to be out-scaled."

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