If you’ve stopped to admire an outdoor mural of beguiling figures painted in blaring neons and pastels and found yourself strangely moved, you may well be standing before the work of the Mexican-American painter known as Panca. Born here in San Diego, she’s made a big splash on both sides of the border; you may have seen the 45-foot-high mural she created outside San Diego’s Bread and Salt Gallery in 2017. And, of course, if you’ve visited our San Diego dispensary, you’ve seen her work here.
If you can’t tell, we’re huge fans of Panca here at Klover. We’ll share a little bit of her life story thus far, and why her murals, paintings and tattoos fascinate and bewitch us at the same time.
Panca: A Cross-Border Artist with Street-Driven Style
Born in Chula Vista, just north of the Mexican border, Panca—given name Paola Villaseñor—emigrated to Tijuana in 2004 at the age of 19 after the death of her mother. Disenchanted with American foreign policy, she wanted to challenge herself. It was in this gritty border town that she experienced her creative awakening, later saying, “Tijuana gave this misfit a home and a visual mirror to myself.”
Having spent most of her life in the United States, Panca found Tijuana and the backdrop of the smuggling and deportation economy surreal. Lacking both a direction and money, she found that creating street art gave her a sense of purpose. But it also brought her into conflict with local graffiti crews; many of her outdoor murals are still defaced to this day. An encounter with curator Ginger Schulick Porcella suggested a way forward—supplementing her outdoor (and illegal) murals and paintings with ones created specifically for galleries and site-specific indoor spaces.
Panca: Observing Human and Societal Decay with Whimsy and Compassion
Whether you encounter them on back-alley walls, in art galleries, or in the many tattoo designs she’s created, Panca’s art is always arresting and provocative. Often populated by unique (and, it has to be said, somewhat trippy) figures—multi-eyed characters, humans with narwhal-like tusks—they point to the inevitable decay of human society, and the surreal and dissociative nature of life in the early 21st century.
But that’s not to say her work is hopeless. In observing the foibles and shortcomings of our established systems and habits, Panca’s work orients itself towards an essential humanity. From that towering (and sweet) mural outside Bread and Salt—celebrating community love and peace—to thought-provoking pieces that invite the viewer to reexamine their deeply held judgments and beliefs, Panca’s art manages to be dynamic, provocative, challenging and hopeful, all at the same time.
Panca and Klover in Partnership
Fortunately for us, we don’t have to travel very far to take in Panca’s stunning large-scale work. In fact, her largest mural to date is located right outside our dispensary! (There’s another one inside, too.) The artist has been kind enough to thank us for giving her the opportunity and creative freedom to paint whatever she felt like, but really, the thanks goes to her. Getting to hang out in an environment graced by her one-of-a-kind art is a dream come true. We hope you’ll come by and visit us yourself!