Rising almost three stories over Downtown Oakland, Jet Martinez’s calla lilies may be the art world’s biggest. They’re certainly bigger than Diego Rivera’s famous depictions of the white and green flower. They’re bigger than Georgia O’Keeffe’s acclaimed lilies, too. But like O’Keeffe’s and Rivera’s creations, Martinez’s flowers are a guessing game. Does the art have deeper meanings — say about nature, work, or even sexuality? Well, yes.
Martinez had multiple ideas in his head when he painted There’s More to Green Than Money in 2016, and one of them was … Draymond Green, the Golden State Warriors’ mercurial forward. Yup. Draymond Green, who in 2016 had recently signed a five-year, $85 million contract.
“That was definitely in my mind, and I love the Warriors, so the title is a little tongue-in-cheek,” Martinez tells SF Weekly. “But I was thinking a lot about how Oakland, like San Francisco, is experiencing a boom, and it’s important to take a step back and realize that culture isn’t just a constant progression of making buildings and making money and all that stuff. I wanted to make something that addressed that.”
There’s More to Green Than Money is on the side of the iconic I. Magnin building, whose green, terracotta exterior has anchored that part of Downtown Oakland since 1931. I. Magnin was an upscale department store that went out of business in 1994 — a rags-to-riches-to-rags-again story that also relates to the mural’s title. But the scope of There’s More to Green Than Money also relates to Martinez’s Mexican upbringing — and to the impetus for Rivera’s own calla lily paintings.
“It’s a symbol of Mexican culture,” says Martinez, who has been based in Oakland for more than five years. “It’s also my mom’s favorite flower, and one of my favorite flowers. But beyond that, design-wise, I could work with 10 tones, from white to deep green and then reverse the pattern — it’s a nice, elegant way to minimize materials.”
Like Beacon Frequency Reader, another downtown Oakland mural that SF Weekly recently wrote about, Sorell Raino-Tsui of ABG Art Group helped arrange for There’s More to Green Than Money.
“It’s such a big, high-profile wall,” says Martinez, who has street art around the Bay Area. “I worked with the colors of the terracotta tiles. There are several buildings in Downtown Oakland that you can see are just markers of a previous golden era, and that’s one of them — and I’ve always really loved its tiles, so I wanted to work with it rather than popping off of it.”