Pablo Luna, a former Phoenix muralist and beloved member of the community, has passed away. He was 52.
“He fought so hard,” said his sister Lina Luna. “He wanted to live, I know he did. And he fought, fought, fought. And then his heart gave out.”
Pablo Luna went to the hospital on February 24 with undiagnosed diabetes. After his diagnosis of diabetic ketoacidosis, Luna suffered a heart attack and battled pneumonia.
After being in the hospital for 55 days, his heart stopped at 1:33 a.m. on April 19, ending his battle with diabetes, double pneumonia and valley fever, Luna said.
“He was an artist,” said Lina Luna. “He was a muralist. He was once infamous and then he was famous. He was a father and a brother … he made an impact on the lives of so many people, individual impact. He was like the godfather of Phoenix. He was a real treasure for this community.”
Memory of the ‘godfather of graffiti’
Born on November 25, 1969 in Phoenix, Pablo Luna was the oldest of seven. He had one brother and five sisters.
“We always called the boys the bookends,” said Lina Luna, laughing.
She remembers her brother as adventurous and fun and someone who loved being outdoors, be it biking, skateboarding, or jumping into a lowrider.
“He was always the nice guy you wanted to hang out with,” Lina said. “But also the fun adult you wanted to hang out with.”
Pablo Luna started drawing at a young age. In high school, Luna painted designs with an airbrush on clothing. His passion for art never stopped, and in his late teens, Pablo Luna moved into a small apartment on 15th Avenue and McDowell in Phoenix. There he started to establish himself as an artist and DJ in the community.
Luna formed the NG Crew with two other artists, Lalo Cota and Mando Rascon.
The three started painting murals in the valley.
“He’s basically the godfather of graffiti,” Silvana Salcido Esparza, chef and owner of Barrio Cafe and an old friend of Luna, said in a March 8 interview with the Republic. “Not just in Arizona, but on the West Coast as well.”
His most famous murals to date are inside and outside Barrio Cafe, said Lina Lina.
“He was a great artist,” said Lina Luna. “He had a certain style and a familiar look. At one point I walked into a restaurant and immediately recognized his art and he stayed true to his style, his Dia de La Muertes, Chicano art style.”
A friend, a brother, an artist and a father
He was preceded in death by his brother Evaristo Luna Jr., his mother Patricia Luna and his daughter Lali, who drowned when she was 4.
In an Instagram post on April 19, Dominguez wrote: “My best friend, my strength, my rock. I never thought I would have to go through this life without him. Pablo passed away last night and my heart is broken. My only consolation is “to know that he is no longer in pain and that he is reunited with his beloved Lali. Thank you friends and family for all the support and apologies to those who find out this way.”
Pablo Luna always took care of his family, Lina said. When she was sick, her brother took care of her, cycling through the city with medicine. And when they were young, she remembers one time Luna defended her against a bobcat.
“He stopped me and pushed me behind him and he said, ‘Just don’t look for a second. When I tell you to run I want you to walk back the way we came and I looked up and there was a bobcat on a ledge, and he said, “Go.” He startled the cat and ran after me.”
Pablo Luna’s Legacy in Phoenix
Luna was the type of person that his family always honored in his artwork. Every mural he painted had tags in the corner, Lina Luna said. His murals include ‘Mother’, in honor of his late mother, Patricia, and ‘Lali’, in honor of his little girl whom he loved.
Pablo Luna defended the Phoenix community — and so they gathered around him, said Lina Luna.
A celebration of his life has yet to be announced, but people are already honoring Luna and his legacy throughout the Phoenix community.
“People are already writing stories about how they met him,” said Lina Luna. “He was an influencer, an encourager. He was all for people and Phoenix. We will never forget him.”