Jules Muck is the Venice-based mural artist who painted a controversial tribute to Indiana basketball legend Larry Bird. Muck first posted a photo of the mural to her Instagram page on August 16. The mural is displayed in Indianapolis’ Fountain Square neighborhood.
Speaking to the Indianapolis Star, Muck said that she had agreed to remove the tattoos shown on Larry Bird’s arms and chest, except for the word, “INDIANA” on his forearm. Muck told the newspaper, “This is another human being that is obviously not liking it. If he was happy and thought it was funny, that’s a different story.” In the caption of her Instagram post showing the Bird mural, Muck wrote, “A fictional character – Larry badass Bird.”
In a February 2019 interview with MSNBC, Bird was asked about the differences between the NBA of today and the NBA of the 1980s. He replied, “Well, there’s a lot more tattoos now than there were when I played. But other than that, I think it’s basically the same game.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Muck Said Regarding the Bird Mural: ‘I Just Wanted to Have a Little Fun’
Bird’s attorney, Gary Sallee, told the Indy Star that he believes that it was the Celtics legend’s “willingness to compromise” that led to an agreement between the artist and Bird’s camp. While Muck maintains, “It’s nothing personal against Larry. I actually think it’s funnier to put tattoos on people who don’t have them… Larry deserves some sort of prestigious mural. That’s not my calling. That’s not what I’m here to do. I just wanted to have a little fun.”
The image that inspired the mural came from Bird’s November 1977 Sports Illustrated cover story in which he was referred to as “College Basketball’s Secret Weapon.”
2. Muck Was Born in England but Moved Around a Lot in Her Youth, Living in New York & Greece for a Time
Muck is a native of Stoke-on-Trent in England. According to a biography on her official website, Muck moved to the New York City in the 1990s. Prior to that, Muck had already begun painting murals in Europe. Muck told We Are Bird in an interview that she spent part of her youth growing up “near” The Bronx. Muck said that her father is Greek and her mother is British which led to the family moving around a lot.
In 1999, Muck met fellow mural-legend Lady Pink. Pink offered Muck an apprenticeship, the artist accepted. . Muck remained in New York City until 2008 when she drove cross-country to California. Eventually, Muck settled in Venice, living initially inside of her car and painting on the streets. Muck’s artistic pseudonym was based on a pet name her grandmother gave her.
3. Venice, California Is ‘The Most Mucked Place in the World’
Muck says on her official website that she travels and paints often in New York, New Orleans, Texas but that Venice, California, “remains the most mucked place in the world as her Venice home and studio is her favorite place to be.”
When asked in an interview about what Los Angeles means to her, Muck said, “I think it means freedom to me. The real kind. I used to say freedom was dumb because I chased freedom for a long time. I was a drug addict and a homeless person and I finally realized that just showing up and taking care of your shit was freedom.” In addition to being a mural artist, Muck says that she is an amateur tattoo artist.
4. Muck Says She Kicked Heroin in 2013 After Being Told She Would Die
Muck told LA Weekly in August 2017 that she kicked heroin in 2013. Muck said that she contacted a family friend who was a doctor. He told her that she would die if she did not stop using heroin. Muck said, “He was so matter-of-fact about it. Heart doctors — they’re like that, I guess.”
Among her first works after getting sober was a mural in Los Angeles titled, “Freedumb.” The mural showed celebrities who died young, including Kurt Cobain, Sid Vicious and Marilyn Monroe. Muck told the LA Weekly, “I painted that in two days, and that’s when I knew I was back.”
5. One of Muck’s Murals in Greece of a Syrian Refugee Camp Was Featured in the National Georaphic
Muck told the Culture Trip that in 2016 she traveled to Greece where she painted a mural of a Syrian refugee camp. That mural was featured in the National Geographic. Muck told the Culture Trip, “I think it’s weird that people are mean to refugees. I loved the people I met. I’m just grateful because art crosses borders not all people can.”