Powerful paintings

Tony Catteruccia’s graffiti-esque work makes a true statement


Hailey Griffin

Madison artist Tony Catteruccia created a number of the murals in downtown Madison this summer, including this depiction of Angela Davis and a panther.

Hailey Griffin, Arts Editor

Downtown Madison has undergone a transformation similar to the one that society has experienced in the past several months.

The Mural Project, orchestrated by Madison Arts Program Administrator Karin Wolf, has allowed for local artists like Tony Catteruccia to enact that transformation. Days after riots broke out in downtown Madison on May 31, Catteruccia set out to work.

“I’d say that it is important for me to speak and to protest with something that not many people can do,” said Catteruccia.
Tony Catteruccia cultivates his art in several mediums; tattooing, painting and spray-painting. He describes his style as illustrative, realistic and visual, with a “graffiti, color-popping, bulky texture and tone.” His graffiti-esque style stems from his childhood infatuation with graffiti art.

“I was very thoroughly infatuated with graffiti art, seeing it on freight trains, really understanding that something that is in a very ugly environment can just have something so beautiful and raw, straight from the person’s mind,” Catteruccia said.

One could recognize Catteruccia’s realistic, graffiti-esque style in his murals in downtown Madison, next to the Veteran’s Museum on West Mifflin Street, across from Madison Public Library on North Franklin Street and in front of the night club, Liquid, on University Avenue.

“Any time I do murals, I kind of never really know what I’m going to get at the end. I like to plan it out to an extent, but the wall tells me how to do everything after a certain amount of time on it,” Catteruccia said.

The mural that was on West Mifflin Street was a collaborative piece, featuring artwork by both Catteruccia and his coworker, Lincoln Rust. It features George Floyd on the left, and Malcolm X on the right, with text that reads unite the power, along with a fist, a peace sign, flowers and a candle. Despite a lack of meticulous planning, Catteruccia still aims to convey a purpose and a message through the elements within his art.

“So, I went with Malcolm X because his message was a lot different. He spoke his mind very heavily, even against his own color, and was pretty much tired of the way that everyone is okay with certain things, and nobody is really doing what they can to a full measure to accomplish what it is that they want,” Catteruccia said.

“I didn’t do the fist black for a reason,” he continues. “I used a lot of orange colors to show the depth and the sacrifices that have happened wrongfully. It also says unite the power overall, because yeah, black lives matter, I’m 100 percent for it. I’m not one to sit here and scream all lives matter, especially at the time. I think what’s important right now is the union of colors.”

Catteruccia’s mural on North Franklin Street also uses an array of colors. It features a portrait of a green woman, surrounded by black panthers. The righthand corner reads Black is beautiful.

“I used an Angela Davis reference because Angela Davis didn’t really cower to her circumstances back in the day. She didn’t become another black woman that would be victimized and not say something. She defended herself, and I believe she was one of the first black women to represent herself in a court case and succeed,” Catteruccia said.

“I put the two black panthers there to show empowerment. Panthers symbolize a lot of things with a lot of people. I think it’s a key point to know that a jaguar and a panther are literally the same exact animal, and the only thing that makes a panther a panther is the genetic mutation of fur patterns.”

Catteruccia’s third mural on University Avenue features another woman in green, along with a rose.

“I went with greens for a certain reason. Her face is green and has a rose that’s sort of growing across her face, and I put a big word that says grow in the right corner. I put that piece in particularly to show that there’s beauty in growth, and it doesn’t always look like what you think it will. Her eye is slightly open, and it’s got a tear to kind of show that there’s a realization of the change that’s needed. The giant rose means that there’s an image of what it’s like to actually grow and achieve what it is that we’re supposed to do,” Catteruccia explains.

Catteruccia expresses the awe he felt not only towards the project itself but also towards the protests that continued while he was working on his murals.

“The whole time down there, I heard just roars of ‘Black lives matter,’ and it put a chill down my spine in the most awakening and positive way. I really think that what happened in downtown Madison is probably one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen face to face, besides my children, obviously. It brought tears of joy to my eyes on a couple different occasions,” said Catteruccia.

Catteruccia is very thankful to have gotten an opportunity to be a part of the project and wishes to thank the art directors that made all this possible.

“There was one woman named Karin and another woman named Meredith that I was communicating with. They supported me, anything I needed, they were with it, and they should be thanked. They were kind of the ones who put the whole master plan together, and the fact that they gave me three walls, I can’t thank them enough,” Catteruccia said.

Catteruccia’s mural painting endeavors are far from over. He wishes to create more art around the city of Madison. “I’d love to do more paintings along those lines in the city,” Catteruccia said. Since his participation downtown, Catteruccia has painted a piece on the drive through side of JavaCat in Monona. He also has a project in the works at Angelo’s, an Italian restaurant in Monona.

Amid new mural projects, Catteruccia remains unsure of what will happen to all his work downtown, or whether it will remain a permanent fixture of the area. The Malcolm X and George Floyd piece that was next to the Veteran’s Museum on West Mifflin Street has already been taken down, yet Catteruccia’s other two murals remain. Several businesses in the downtown area have left their art intact, although it is unclear how long the art will remain.

There have been some speculations as to whether the art will be donated to a George Floyd museum, or whether it will be auctioned to raise money for the artists. City officials are currently collecting input from the community about their thoughts on what should happen to downtown Madison’s art. You, too, can send feedback to this link: https://airtable.com/shr2TqEsZWaADHpf0