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Sonoma Stories: The artist known as Bud Snow takes on a 62-foot-tall palette in Santa Rosa

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To Julia Davis and Bud Snow, art is huge.

Julia Davis and Bud Snow are the same person, a professional artist whose works include some public pieces hard to miss in Sonoma County.

Today the loss of a friend powers her largest project ever: a vertical mural six stories high on the backside of downtown Santa Rosa’s Roxy theater.

Davis, 36, nicknamed herself and signs her works Bud Snow.

“It was the name of my great, late uncle,” she explained. “I never knew him but he was an eccentric in my family.”

Davis rather enjoys the prospect that people will notice her murals, see that they’re signed Bud Snow and perhaps wonder if the artist was a man or a woman.

Her multimedia work testifies that one needn’t be male to ascend a tall building and apply paint onto a great wall. “I’m as strong and capable as a man my age,” she said.

You’ve certainly seen the Vancouver native’s artwork if you’ve driven on Highway 12 and glanced to the south immediately west of Highway 101 in central Santa Rosa.

A mural Davis produced with the Artstart training and apprentice program enlivens a wall of the ruins of the Albers Milling Co. feed plant. A second substantial “Bud Snow” piece transformed a long-ago fountain at downtown’s Juilliard Park into a playful and colorful mandala mural.

In her murals, sculptures, apparel and other works, Davis favors brightly colored, cartoonish and whimsical fantasy creatures and figures. Often her art offers social or political commentary.

There’s sometimes a circus feel to her work, evidence of the impact of having traveled with a small circus and her dad, Gary Davis, an artist and stilt-walker. Father and daughter migrated many years to Wavy Gravy’s circus camp, Winnarainbow, near Laytonville.

Julia Davis’ current project at the Roxy has her utilizing, for the first time, a swing stage — a work platform that’s suspended by cables and is lifted and lowered by an electric motor.

“It’s a little scary, but it’s super fun,” she said while standing on the movable work platform with artists Rei Rivera and Dana Wisbar.

Their canvas is the 62-foot-tall, 25-foot-wide sliver of the 14-screen Roxy now shielded by the adjacent parking garage. Davis said the project is short funded, and she welcomes help, but she made a start with financial support from the Tocchini family that owns the theater.

She said she’s beholden to others as well, among them Spring Maxfield and Santa Rosa’s Out There in the Middle of Everything campaign; Raissa de la Rosa, the city’s economic development manager; the city’s art in public places program; and the public-art advocate Judy Kennedy.

Davis welcomes email inquiries from other potential supporters to doyouknowbudsnow@gmail.com.

Her towering mural on the Roxy is a tribute to Laura Nicole Kelly, a Sonoma County practitioner of Ayurvedic medicine. Kelly died from cancer in 2016.

“She was my best friend,” Davis said. “A lot of people were touched and were healed by Laura.”

The mural in her honor will take the shape of a processional banner and will feature images that the late Kelly shared with Davis.

The artist said she and her helpers will use brushes and rollers to apply paint and they aim to be finished in just two weeks.

You can reach Staff Writer Chris Smith at 707-521-5211 or chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

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