Daniel Anguilu drives a Houston METRO train.
He’s also an artist, whose specialty is murals. And chances are good that you’ve seen some of his work, especially if you’re a regular METRO passenger.
Formerly empty walls throughout the city are painted by the Mexico City native – four of them along METRO rail tracks. They can be recognized by their geometrical shapes and thick black lines that sometimes form creatures or structures.
One of the murals is on the corner of Main and Drew Street in Midtown, on a vacant building.
“The building came up for sale and a friend of mine owns the building, so he just lets me paint on there … And actually that building is one of the first ones that I painted — where I had complete freedom to just do whatever I wanted to do.”
When he first started painting on walls, Anguilu would ask business owners on the eastside of Houston and most of them let him paint on their buildings, he says. More recently, people have approached him about turning their blank building walls into art. For example, the War’hous Visual Studios on Main Street just south of Interstate-59.
“She had this white wall. She knew that I painted walls and she’s like, if you ever want to paint something there, you’re welcome to do so.”
Anguilu started his outdoor artwork when he was about 15 years old and sprayed graffiti on freight train cars. That’s also what eventually brought him to work as a train operator.
“I never saw anything wrong painting on freight trains, because I didn’t feel like I was really harming anyone, like, we weren’t going over the numbers because we wanted our pieces to last. But you have to know the schedules, the way the tracks are built, how do they move trains, and you started learning them because you spent so much time around them.”
He says the reason why he did graffiti was because he wanted to paint, but he has found a better calling doing murals – and legally. Working as a light rail operator provides him with the inspiration for his art.
“The way we live in Houston is really – you don’t have to have that human connection much, you know, you could actually just live from your car to your job, from your job to your car and back and you don’t ever have to have that human interaction much, and I think that the train gives me that. I’m always in the public. I’m always seeing, watching what’s happening.”
Anguilu’s work, together with that of seven other Houston artists, can also be viewed at the Station Museum of Contemporary Art until Feb. 17.