Prickly Paint: Southwest Street Art

Dedicated to exploring murals and street art in the Southwest.

Meet the Southwestern Prickly Pear Cactus,

Welcome to the land of Petroglyphs (the original “street art”) and Prickly Pear Cactus. Both are found everywhere in the Southwestern United States. The cactus fruit is used in our cooking, past and present. It is referred to as a “pear” because it’s roughly the same size and shape. It is also sweet, but, unlike the pears that grow on trees, this one is covered with spines. It defines its own rules. However, when they bloom, they put on quite a show of color. What do they have in common with Southwest Street Art?—quite a bit. Anyway, that’s our Mascot, and sometimes our meal! Thanks for dropping by.

Near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Commissioned mural.
Large mural from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Definitely NOT graffiti.

A human mural. Fair game for this photographer. I had a very willing subject though.

Student at SFCC from a Face Painting exercise. Those students had a ball.


Santa Fe New Mexico, which is the primary focus of this site, is known for its vibrant art scene—it’s everything from opera to some of the finest art galleries to be found anywhere. A lesser known artistic aspect of this town, which we seek to capture, are the murals, street art, graffiti and also what we refer to as walk-away art.



We like to roam the streets looking for these expressions of urban creativity. Sometimes the artists work in chalk, so you have to be there within days to see it. Others are working in “traditional” media: various kinds of spray paint, or just hand drawn or painted with a brush. What we do NOT appreciate in the least are the wanton scrawls that debase another work of art such as sculpture.

Lately, We’ve seen some artists who create what we call “walk away” graffiti. These artists take the time to print their work, usually on small pieces of paper, then nail it or paste it onto a wall or window. Sometimes those have messages, sometimes not. Anyone can pick it up and walk away with it. Some of it is actually worth taking! And here we have to contradict ourselves. We have seen some of those walk-aways that ARE in fact political, but they are so artistically or cleverly presented that we have chosen to include them. They are also not destructive in any way and that is really quite refreshing.

By the way, we have zero use for any street art that is attempting to convert us to some political point of view. Worse yet, are those that proclaim profanities. There’s no art in that and a gorilla could do as much. So, yes, we are selective in what we want to feature here.

Walk-Away-Art: This was found just propped up on the table. It even had a support in the back to hold it up. It has been seen painted on walls in different places. Someone definitely has something quite pressing on their mind!

There is a difference between “graffiti” and “street art”. It seems to this photographer that the art which looks like a mural, and which has been planned out in advance, has been commissioned, and takes a lot of time to create, is street art. And it’s often, though not always, a realistic picture of some kind. The lines between these two terms are blurry and difficult to define precisely. So we ask, “Are the definitions important or relevant to this site and discussion?—probably not! Anyway, you get to decide.

View all posts  (or see the latest below)

Graffiti Bluebird: 3.12.21

Amazing graffiti and wall art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Also shown is a large mural of bluebirds and tropical scenes from Albuquerque, New Mexico.


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