Like a lot of graffiti artists growing up, Mario Enrique Figueroa, Jr., aka GONZO247, used to look for high traffic areas that would attract attention, show off his skills and get people talking. Having a major billboard as a canvas for his work was unthinkable. Nearly 25 years later, he is realizing a dream — seeing a billboard he created from scratch for Saint Arnold Brewing Co., the oldest craft brewery in Texas, installed overlooking Interstate 10.
Starting with a 14 ft x 48 ft white vinyl panel, GONZO247 created the Saint Arnold piece inside an empty warehouse. It depicts St. Arnold of Metz, the patron saint of brewers, in front of what appears to be a jumble of colorful graffiti art — but is actually the words, “Saint Arnold” in wildstyle, a complicated and intricate form of graffiti.
“If you don’t know what it says, you probably won’t see Saint Arnold in the interwoven and overlapping shapes, but it’s like a treasure hunt, and once find it you are in on the secret,” said GONZO247, who says Saint Arnold Founder/Brewer Brock Wagner gave him complete control. “He wanted it to be my art. He asked what I would paint if I ever had a chance to climb a blank billboard and just go crazy on it — and this is it.”
The finished work is installed now, overlooking I-10 and Shepherd Drive. Wagner actually sought to have the vinyl painted on the billboard rather than in the studio, an idea nixed by the billboard company because of the liability.