El Mac attack. Visionary mural artist brings inspiration to Alexandria

El Mac attack. Visionary mural artist brings inspiration to Alexandria
El Mac mid-project at 901 King St. (Photo/Eric Heights)

By Lexie Jordan |

Bare walls are no fun. That’s why Mike Dameron of Windmill Hill LLC, the owner of the up-and-coming apartments at 901 King St., decided to reach out to world renowned artist El Mac about painting the side wall of the white brick building.

The idea originally was supposed to be a very generic “901” written on the side. However, as the planning process began and the advisory board approved of the sign, Dameron decided to dream bigger.

“It’s really such a unique corner and we thought something more special, more unique than a traditional stencil would be best,” Dameron said.

Upon doing a bit of re- search, Dameron came across El Mac.

El Mac, whose real name is Miles MacGregor, is an artist born and based in Los Angeles. He works in various mediums, from acrylics to prints to pencil sketches to murals. He has been asked to paint murals in several different countries and for many well-known companies and establishments such as Northeastern University, University of California San Diego, the Groeninge Museum in Belgium and the Mexican secretariat of Foreign Affairs.

According to his website, elmac.net, for the past 20 years El Mac has aimed “to uplift and inspire through careful, perfectionist renderings of both the sublime and the humble.”

Dameron reached out to El Mac in the spring of 2023 and to his surprise received a response rather quickly. El Mac had never been to the D.C. area before and was interested in the offer. It took three to four months to get the project started and the contracts signed. Then, finally in the last week of June, El Mac was able to come to Alexandria. He rented an Airbnb in Old Town and brought his wife, child and videographer Eric Heights with him.

When asked about the inspiration, Dameron said that the piece was left entirely up to the artist.

“He got to make the deci- sion on it because he is such a talented artist. He really tries to highlight and create his art around the ordinary person. In [El Mac’s] words, ‘no single person is more important than others,’” Dameron said.

Dameron and El Mac hashed out the details over a coffee at Misha’s at the beginning of the week-long trip. El Mac wanted to go for something more muted and neutral, and Dameron was all for the vision.

“It was absolutely his vision, his work, his time schedule. We would have a conversation pretty much every other day. Very casual, candid,” Dameron said.

The project itself took him under a week to complete, and he would only work at night and into the early hours. According to Dameron, El Mac doesn’t stencil his art, all he uses is an iPad, his paint and a lift.

The final product is a woman with glasses looking south down Alfred Street. While there are some blue accents in the mural, the art is mainly drawn in black and white. It has a vibrant and flowy aspect to it as El Mac used straight and wavy lines to contour and express shadows in the woman’s face, hair, clothes and hand.

According to Dameron, the piece is a hit with the public.

“I have received a few dozen text messages about positive feedback and a lot of people will stop, take pictures and talk about it,” Dameron said.

This type of art is not a new thing for El Mac. The majority of his murals are of human characters, highlighting his belief that the average person is just as important as anyone else. He has some magnificent pieces in public places and even some similar ones such as “La Abuelita” which is on The American Hotel in the Los Angeles Arts District and “An Enduring Spell” located on Argo Hall at UCSD.

El Mac has been around art his entire life, as one of his parents was an artist and the other an engineer, according to widewalls.ch.

“El Mac has been creating and studying art independently since childhood. He was inspired at a young age by classic European painters such as Caravaggio, and Vermeer and Art Nouveau symbolists such as Klimt and Mucha,” according to the widewalls.ch bio of El Mac.

Per his website, El Mac has also been influenced by social realism, symbolism and devotional art, as well as the Chi- cano and Mexican culture he grew up around.

“I think there’s a lot of great street art here in the region like in Richmond, Baltimore and even D.C. has a bunch. Alexandria has some but it’s not to that same ex- tent,” Dameron noted when recalling why he wished to do street art instead of that original “901” sign.

“El Mac was my top choice. He is the elite of the elite in his field,” Dameron said.

Now Alexandria residents and visitors can enjoy his work too.

Dameron said that the art was quite a victory, but meeting El Mac and his family and hanging out with him was an equally special experience.

“El Mac himself is an in- credible human being, and he is amazingly humble,” Dameron said.

According to Dameron, El Mac said he really enjoyed his time in Alexandria and appreciated how kind and welcoming everyone was toward him and his family. When bystanders would address him while he was working, El Mac was always ready to come down from the lift and talk to people about his art.

The apartments at 901 King St. are set to open at the end of 2023 and beginning of 2024.

To learn more, visit https:// elmac.net