Local graffiti artist is making a name for himself

Where on earth is Daniel Anguilu?

Courtesy photo

Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com

As owner of Houston Tourism Gym, I get the privilege of experiencing the best of Houston. I have literally made it my business to learn as much as I can about this city. When I find that a certain feature of Houston is amazing and noteworthy, I love being able to follow the breadcrumb trail until I have a good story to tell.

In 2016, I finally got the balls to start researching this city. I knew that I would need to spend a lot of time creating my walking routes and learning everything along the way. As I took to the streets, I really enjoyed all of the mural art and street art we have. Especially in neighborhoods that are going through transition, the mural art is priceless. I think it is the first clue as to who we are as Houstonians.

Lately, I've been obsessed with a certain artist. His name is Daniel Anguilu. I have been following his breadcrumbs across this city for two years. One day, I knew I would meet him. I first saw his work in EADO. I was driving on Harrisburg Blvd. when I saw this masterpiece all along the Metro Rail:

I got out of my car to get a better look. I took note of the colors outlined in black. Then I looked closer, I could see chapel spires and eyes. After another look, birds and fish. Another day, I was walking in Third Ward on Fannin St. I happened upon this small apartment complex.

It was truly one of a kind. This complex was covered in mural art. Getting a closer look, I could see the same colors with the black outline. This one has an elephant in it. It was Daniel Anguilu.

Some time later, I was at Silver Street Studios talking to my friend Verny Sanchez, the Venezuelan artist of emotional language. (You can see one of his murals across from 8th Wonder Brewery. It's the one with two guys that have rainbows for heads). He began to tell me about HAM or Harrisburg Art Museum in EADO that is being maintained by his friend, Daniel Anguilu. Another breadcrumb.

The next day, I go to HAM. HAM is a once abandoned, metal warehouse. Now it houses urban art from artists all over the world. I recognize some of Verny's art in the hanger. The front of the building is a row of murals from different artists. Along the back, different artists have collaborated to spell Houston, Texas using their different styles to fill the letters. I go to the furthest point of view behind HAM. Man, that would make a great panoramic for my social media header.

Walking the property, you can tell that it accommodates artists with varying levels of talent. It is never a boring moment. I have been back many times. On a number of occasions, I've happened on rap videos being filmed. Sometimes, it looks like a scene from the Fast and the Furious. Photos being taken of scantily clad girls on sports cars.

I knew that I one day, I would meet him here. One day, like any other Sunday, I was hosting my Mural and Brewery Tour. I had just finished showing the back of the museum. Just as we were turning the corner, I saw a man with long hair "writing on the wall." Finally, it was Daniel Anguilu. I politely introduce myself. He's a man of Mexican-Aztecan decent. I have so many questions for him. He seems ready to talk and full of answers sometimes before I ask them. We set a time to talk the next week.

My conversation with Daniel was very eye-opening. I knew from meeting the other mural artists in Houston that the subject can be very controversial. Some have described receiving persecution for putting their art out there. I have asked Verny about the subject before. He says that Social Media helped decriminalize graffiti art. Knowing that artists had followers that made a pastime of taking pictures in front of their murals meaning more people would flock to their businesses, business owners now welcome spray paint on their walls. Instead of getting harassed by the police, graffiti artists actually get paid to paint. Daniel, then tells me his experience of being an artist in Houston.

I start with a few get to know you questions. Where are you from? When and why did you start painting? Daniel is from Mexico City. He came to Houston at a young age. When he was 17, before he learned English, he fell into a crowd of graffiti artists. Graffiti was a way for him to bond and connect with them without speaking their language.

The million dollar question: What is the graffiti culture and why is it so controversial? According to Daniel, there are three types of artists: Graffiti artists, street artists, and trained artists. All need a space to express themselves through their style and be seen in the public.

Graffiti, along with the rap culture, became popular in the 80's. Rap artists, like Flavor Flav were actually graffiti artists themselves. Like rap, graffiti art was also known as rebellious and most often criminalized whether because of ties with gangs or just not having permission to paint on a wall. Daniel considers himself a "writer" from the first generation, because he was one of the first to write on Houston's walls.

Being a first generation writer, Daniel found that North Houston neighborhoods were more accepting of the art form. He received less persecution there. He started HAM to challenge the question of when is art a crime? If you wrote the same art on a wall here or there, at what point is it defined as a crime?

Daniel has really thrown himself into this issue. At times, he has even hired attorneys and fought legally for this right. He considers HAM a win for the community of 2nd Ward and artists. As Houston continues to be gentrified, Daniel and other writers use it as a voice for 2nd Ward. Daniel is committed to using HAM as an instrument for the community before it is absorbed by EADO.

Hoping to gain some credibility with Daniel, I tell him the long list of sites where I have personally seen his work.

The Flat on Commonwealth. Rudz on Waugh. A convenience store on Richmond. He assures me that there are many more murals than I think. I had come to know and love his style from his Aztecan Heritage. He says that not all of his art looks the same. But that is only in Houston. He reminisces on the many trips around the world where he would sleep on couches just to get his work out there. Places like Morocco, China, Central and South America, and all through Europe.

On Brewery and Mural Tour of Eado that I host every Sunday we pass his amazing work of art along the light rail on Harrisburg, I tell what I know. Every week, I feel embarrassed that I do not know more. I use this opportunity to get more information. How long did it take him to complete? Did he have help? Was it commissioned? It was commissioned by Metro. The rail was not operating then. It took him 2 weeks to complete working 4 to 5 hours a day with student volunteers. However he was the only one painting. The mural is to be read left to right. It tells the Aztecan story of the journey of energy creating life.

I'd like to call Daniel "a writer for the people." Just how he learned writing to bond with peers, Daniel still uses his art to create relationships. The muraled apartment complex on Fannin St. was a place he used to live in. He built a relationship with his landlord. His landlord, in turn, allowed him to "pimp" out his property. On Canal St., a neighborhood convenience store has been adored with his art. In return…snacks and a friend.

So, what's your favorite Daniel Anguilu? When you are on a weekend bike ride or walk past it, please take a picture and post on social media. Then again, you can also join me on Sundays in Eado.

Float away to rest and relaxation

New float spas can help you relax and unwind

Heard about the "float" craze? It has been slowly growing over the past few years, and one local float spa in Houston was featured on Shark Tank last year. "Floating" has actually been around since about the mid 1950's. Floatation therapy is based on a scientific approach to a deep relaxation called Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique, or R.E.S.T. Dr. John Lily originally created floatation therapy tanks and called them "sensory deprivation tanks, or isolation tanks."

These sensory deprivation tanks became more popular between the 60's and 70's but lost popularity after it became publicly known that Dr. Lily used a lot of psychedelic drugs. Well, they are back, in a unique form. Most sensory deprivation/relaxation spa's are now using giant white pods, more futuristic like. And inside there is plenty of room for you and even a few others (not recommended). But to give you an idea there is plenty of room between you, the water, and the ceiling; and over 8 ft. from head to toe. So what is it, people ask? The general idea is marketed as a way for people to relax and unwind. Floating in a flotation tank triggers a deep relaxation response, much deeper than normal sleep. It enables people to drift into an elusive theta state, which normally is hard to achieve. I received a gift card for my birthday to "Urban Float," a new float place in Heights, and decided to check it out!

During floating, the idea is to relax your brain, body, and soul. Since you are typically in about a 1000 lbs. of Epsom salt (dissolved into water), you will float to the top and won't have to expend any physical energy to float. You're changing your stimuli by releasing everything, every piece of energy your body would normally put out (even just sitting down). In the tank your mind will start to wonder off. Some will problem solve, learn, or swirl into creative paths; while others will meditate, rest, or even fall asleep.

The float sessions I have seen range anywhere from 60-90 minutes. I did a 60-minute session and fell asleep both times. The experience of coming out of a float is supposed to sharpen you senses, have a refreshed mind, and the world may appear more vibrant. Now, I am a glass full type of girl, however I am not sure it sharpened my senses or the world appeared with rainbows and unicorns. However, I did feel much more at peace, and was relaxed and calm for the rest of the day. I have also read it may take a float or 2, to really start reaping the benefits. At this point I have done 2 floats, so I'm sure if I were to continue, maybe then it would sharpen my senses, or I would maybe be seeing unicorns pooping rainbows.

For first time floaters or anyone on the fence about trying it out (which I do recommend) here are a few tips. For starters, remember you are in a ton of Epsom salt infused water. So, if you've knicked yourself shaving prior to floating… well, it will sting. However, they do provide petroleum jelly for any small knicks or cuts, and when applied the jelly will act as a band aid in the salt water. They do recommend for any bigger cuts or burns, to wait to float, (or tough it out, your choice). When you first arrive, the float spa had me watch about a 5 minutes video on "how to float". Really, it's just information on pre/post showers, where the panic button is, etc. You also get to choose some fancy relaxation music, or you can choose none.

I chose music the whole time. I didn't want my brain to start wondering about my "to-do" list I didn't finish at work, or all the errands I still had to run and when I was going to run them. It is quiet, the rooms are sound proof, and they provide you with ear plugs. You have an option to turn off the light inside, I tried this, and it got a little creepy. However, everyone is different. I am the type of person that can sleep with lights on, some people cannot. My biggest concern was if the water was going to be cold. Thankfully it was not, and did not change the entire hour. Float spas typically keep the water between 90-95 degrees in temperature, and you are pretty much in a savasana yoga pose the whole time. Initially I felt my head hanging a little heavy, so I used the neck float both times. The neck float is provided for you in the pod. Also, in the pod is a spray bottle with fresh water, for when you get salt in your eye, and more than likely you will. But just spray the fresh water and you'll be fine, or if you are not panic button it is.

They say that the effects of floating lasts for hours to days afterwards and have the potential to last much longer. However, I believe I felt it for the rest of the day, then the next day when I went back to work, I had no idea where that relaxation went. Interesting enough, as I left I spoke to someone who goes every day (unlimited package). He explained it as much more than just going to float, but more so of as his daily meditation practice. In the end it was a great experience both times, I wish I could go everyday to practice meditation, but 24 hours in a day is against me. I would definitely recommend everyone to try it at least once.

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