As he craned his neck at the four-story mural taking shape above the Northeastern University quad this week, Bob Grueter said he had no question about who was responsible for it.
Los Angeles-based graffiti artist Miles “El Mac” MacGregor has taken his work to Boston for the first time, much to the delight of those who recognize his distinctive style.
“I grew up idolizing him,” said Grueter, a graduate student who was seeing the painting for the first time. “He has a style that as soon as you see it, you just know it’s him.”
Northeastern commissioned El Mac to plaster the side of Northeastern’s Meserve Hall as a signature piece of the university’s Public Art Initiative.
The ongoing effort, headed by school president Joseph Aoun, is intended to spruce up the campus and turn it into a canvas.
“I bleed paint,” El Mac said. “This moves me so much, and I put so much into this.”
The 48-by-58-foot painting is based on a photograph that he took of his wife. The mural is meant to celebrate the intersection of the arts and sciences, as requested by school, while also incorporating his notable style that was inspired by classic European painters.
“There’s a certain look and aesthetic that I really strive for, something that’s timeless,” El Mac said.
In the image, which El Mac described as a “Greek muse,” the woman is wearing her hair in long braids and is draped in a cloth that resembles a toga. In her left hand she’s holding a paintbrush, and in her right a bolt of lightning extends from the tips of her fingers.
From afar, the painting looks like a printed photo, but up close it reveals itself as individual flecks of paint meticulously spritzed across the bumpy surface of the building.
El Mac had to project an image of the photo onto the huge wall to create the outlines, but from there he relied on his keen eye and steady hands to blend the colors together using nothing but cans of spray-paint.
Being tapped to create the mural had special significance for the West Coast artist. El Mac said his father attended Northeastern and earned a degree in engineering from the school. His mother also grew up in Boston.
This was the first time he has stepped foot in the state, however.
“There’s thousands of schools in this country and until now I’ve never been to Boston,” he said.
Gazing at El Mac as the artist hovered above the ground on a lift, spray-painting the brick wall with a mix of grays and blues, Aoun called the mural the “pièce de résistance” in the public art series.
“It’s magnificent,” he said. “Look at this. It’s beautiful.”
After already draining more than 150 cans of spray-paint, El Mac is nearly finished with the mural.
He hopes to be done by Friday, when students and their families congregate at the school for graduation and commencement ceremonies.
“I hope somebody can get some inspiration from it, and be inspired so that they might want to paint or take on some creative ventures themselves,” he said. “I hope they are moved by it in some way, and it moves them to pursue their passions.”Steve Annear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.