Know Your Street Art: Roots Run Deep

313 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way (at Third Street, in Oakland)

(Photo by Jonathan Curiel)

This mural by David “MEGGS” Hooke is a visual narrative of Oakland’s history, but it’s also a kind of puzzle. What does a wolf have to do with the East Bay city?

Roots Run Deep is a reference to Jack London, who lived in Oakland, and to the wolves that were a motif throughout his work (such as his novel The Call of the Wild). Hooke put up Roots Run Deep in June 2015, on the wall of a warehouse owned by coffee roastery Mr. Espresso. Oakland’s Athen B. Gallery and its curator, Brock Brake, arranged the work.  

“Some people probably get it straight away,” Hooke says about the wolf. “One of the things that came about in the conversation with the Mr. Espresso people is that the owner is a big Jack London fan. He read all the books. So I wanted to include something for them. And I thought it was a really cool way to tie in the general area. And I also wanted to tie in some other references to Oakland — the multicultural history of it, some of the floral history with the oak trees. I wanted to do something that had a positive message.”

An Australian by birth and upbringing, Hooke lived in the Bay Area for three months before settling in Los Angeles for two years. He’s known around the world in the street-art community, and his mural and gallery work has appeared in London, Paris, Tokyo, and Hong Kong. Earlier this year, Hooke moved to Detroit, where he did a giant mural — Rise Up — that’s about Detroit’s cultural rebirth. The piece is a compliment to Roots Run Deep.

“For an artist, it’s more interesting and inspiring to be in places where it’s a little less of a central hub, because that’s where artistic culture flourishes or begins,” Hooke tells SF Weekly. “There’s more opportunity for low-income artists to experiment, and all kinds of things happening. San Francisco is so much more expensive, and most of my friends from San Francisco have moved to Oakland. I feel like Detroit is the same thing. I like my work to reflect the inspiration I feel in places that are like an underdog, or have dealt with struggle.

“There are a lot of people there that are stronger for it and really encouraging and interested in making things happen,” he adds, “and are really appreciative when things do happen.”

Besides Roots Run Deep, Hooke did a June 2015 mural at 1 Rowland St. in North Beach called The Swallow a.k.a. Save Our Souls. Detroit is a much cheaper place to live than the Bay Area, but Hooke wants to return to Oakland in the next two years to do more public art.  

“Doing anything in the Bay Area was important, because that was the first place I’d spent a decent amount of time anywhere in the U.S.,” he says. “I spent a bunch of time in San Francisco and Oakland, and I got to know a lot of people.”

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