How a tagged Lawrenceville building became one of Pittsburgh’s fiercest murals

60 cans of spray paint + 60 hours of work = 1 intense mural

Magneto – Long Exposure
Courtesy of Jeremy M. Raymer
Rossilynne Culgan

In just 60 hours, artist Jeremy M. Raymer transformed a graffiti-covered Lawrenceville wall into a hulking mural of comic book character Magneto — a piece that has quickly become the most popular he’s ever done.

Magneto’s face, with gritted teeth, covers the wall at AAA Scrap Metals along Penn Avenue near the Lawrenceville-Strip District border, and his outstretched arms reach across the scrap yard’s metal fence. Completed just a week ago, it’s already Raymer’s most-shared and most-liked work, with new photos popping up online daily.

“Fierceness is definitely something that I feel like is moreso my style,” Raymer said. “It was a good opportunity, and I felt like it fit in perfectly with the place. … It’s an interesting facade to have that building and then to have that fence stretching out.”

The piece took about 60 cans of spray paint. Intricate detail weaves through the mural, meaning Raymer used dozens of different tones of the same colors (reds, for example) to achieve a dramatic and realistic look.

Magneto Center
Courtesy of Jeremy M. Raymer

When Raymer paints, music is his guide. Tiësto’s Club Life podcasts and dubstep music made up the soundtrack for the Magneto mural.

“I feel it’s a result of the music I listen to while painting the piece, that emotion kind of channels through me and comes out,” he said. “I’ll start a painting and it’s a blur, it’s almost autonomous to me.”

For AAA Scrap Metals, Magneto is the perfect fit, as the action figure’s hands look like they’re “pulling metal into the building,” manager Todd Spaid said.

AAA’s walls were frequently tagged, and as soon as they repainted the walls, graffiti would pop up again, Spaid said. When Raymer pitched the idea for a mural, they were sold.

Plus, Spaid said, the business appreciates an opportunity to support the local art community. Artists often visit the scrap yard looking for industrial materials.

“I think it turned out fantastic. I couldn’t ask for anything better. He’s an outstanding artist,” Spaid said. “Instead of looking like an older tagged building, it’s something people can appreciate.”

Raymer tried to incorporate the graffiti into his work, rather than erasing it, which is particularly noticeable around Magneto’s arm.

You’ve definitely seen Raymer’s work spray-painted around town in other locations, as well. Raymer is the creative genius behind 45 murals in Pittsburgh, from the surreal portrait of actress Gene Tierney in the Strip District to a massive eagle in Braddock.

He was in the news earlier this week for painting doves where a mural of composer Stephen Foster once stood in Lawrenceville.

Braddock Eagle – Large view
Courtesy of Jeremy M. Raymer

Raymer describes his work as “melancholic beauty,” and he’s influenced by the artist Man Ray.

“Portraiture is definitely my main thing and being able to capture the essence and a feeling within the eyes and the emotion,” he said.

Gene Tierney 2
Courtesy of Jeremy M. Raymer

Until last year, art was just a hobby for Raymer, as he worked as a senior electrical engineer at Westinghouse. The date he became a full-time artist is etched into his memory: May 6, 2016, he recites.

“It’s definitely hands-down my passion,” Raymer said.

Over the years, he always sketched and doodled. In college at Pitt, he balanced his engineering coursework with studio art electives. During class, a professor told him that he drew like a painter, so he tried out a painting class and learned the oil painting skills that would inform the first seven years of his work.

Then, a 2013 trip to Wynwood Walls Garden in Florida, which he calls “the street art capital of the United States,” sparked a passion for a new medium.

“That was my first experience seeing a high concentration of murals,” Raymer said. “I literally came home and I brought spray paint and I started.”