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Mac Miller Honored With Memorial Mural: The Story Behind the Art

Says L.A.-based painter Gustavo Zermeno Jr. of the late rapper: "He tells a story. ... There’s a message of empowerment, to think for yourself and be yourself."

Venice, California-based painter Gustavo Zermeno Jr. paid tribute to what would have been Mac Miller’s 27th birthday on January 19 with an 11-feet x 50-feet mural spread across Express Label, a custom printing and graphic design firm on Beverly Blvd., just east of N. Virgil Avenue in the Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles. Miller died in Studio City, Calif. on Sept. 7 of an accidental overdose.

Zermeno started the piece on Friday, Jan. 18, and finished Saturday, spending $275 on paint and taking very little for the efforts of him and his crew. “I’m just a huge fan of Mac Miller,” Zermeno tells Variety. “He tells a story, but at the same time, there’s a message of empowerment, to think for yourself and be yourself.”

The son of Mexicans who moved to Santa Monica, then Venice, where Zermeno grew up, he had previously created two other murals of the rapper, one for a friend’s garden wall, the other with Salvador Dali wearing a Mac Miller T-shirt, now located in trendy sneaker retailer Sportie L.A.’s Melrose Avenue parking lot.

Additional work by Zermeno includes the LeBron James “King of L.A.” murals, a portrait of Vin Scully in Venice and two in Santa Monica, including the 75’ x 14’ vision of the Pier at night, complete with Ferris wheel and roller coaster, adorning a building on Santa Monica Blvd. and 17th Street, right behind DK’s Donuts and Bakery.

When not roaming the streets looking for empty spaces to serve as a canvas, Zermeno works for the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks in Venice Beach, where he provides permits for events and filming, as well as using his creative background to design T-shirts and face-painting for the kids.

The 31-year-old Zermeno received Instagram thanks from Miller’s mom, Karen Meyers, bonding over the fact her son’s birthday was the same as his mom’s.

The mural follows a similar tribute to Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, painted by Jonas Never at the back of the since-shuttered Sherman Oaks Rock’n Pies Pizza Co.

“I’ve met [Never] a couple of times,” says Zermeno. “He’s always painting in Venice, so we see each other around town quite a bit. That whole area of Venice and Santa Monica is a real community.”

As for his commercial prospects, Zermeno downplays: “I try to keep my work as close to me as I can. Once money’s involved, there are too many compromises. You can start with an amazing idea and end up tweaking it so much, it’s no longer recognizable. But we all have to pay rent, right?”

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