A self-described artist, designer and entrepreneur, Toofly is best-known for her signature character that has made its way onto walls across the globe, as well as onto a range of fashion items. We had the opportunity to meet up with Toofly this past week and ask her a few questions.
Your alluring character has been surfacing all around town. We’ve recently seen her in Williamsburg, at Welling Court, at 5Pointz and even on a Lower East Side rooftop. Can you tell us something about her?
She’s kind of like my alter ego. An outlet where I can express my emotion and ideas. She was once tough and with an attitude, but she has mellowed down over the years. And, like me, she is continually evolving.
When did you first start getting up on the streets?
I was 15 or 16 years old and a student at Fashion Industries High School. I was highly influenced at the time by a graffiti writer named Sabe, and I thought it was fun and rebellious to tag on walls. I first started getting up around my neighborhood in Corona, Queens where I met various graffiti writers. The rest is history…
Had you any encounters with the police back then?
I was cautious. I never had a serious encounter. I do remember getting chased by dogs and jumping over fences and cutting my hand once because an alarm went off.
What about the name “Toofly?” How did you come up with that name?
My cousin Chilly told me that I needed a name if I wanted to get up on the streets. This was before I really knew what I was getting myself into. I would write words on my school notebooks, and one day he picked one out from a list. It stuck.
Have you had a formal art education?
I’m a self-taught artist. I’ve been drawing since I was little. I attended the School of Visual Arts and studied cartooning, illustration and computer art.
Was it a positive experience? Has your formal education helped you develop your skills as an artist?
Definitely. The computer skills that I learned made it possible for me to earn a living as a graphic designer. Very glad I took those!
You seem quite entrepreneurial. Not all that many artists are. Have you always been?
I would say I learned much of my marketing skills from my mom. She was always creating things with her hands and selling them to various shops. So from early on, I was selling my work: art, design, hand crafts to pay for the supplies.
Any favorite artists?
When I first started learning about different artists, I was drawn to Robert Rauschenberg and Franz Kline.
What about graff writers or street artists?
I have always favored graffiti writers from my neighborhood in Corona back in the 90′s because their work on the street got me inspired to dive into this culture. Today I enjoy the work by artist like The Mac, Retna and Os Gemeos.
Any thoughts about graffiti vs. street art?
At first graffiti writers didn’t dig street artists. They resented the recognition they were getting in such a short period of time without “paying your dues.” But these days, street artists and graffiti writers increasingly influence each other and are making wonderful collaborative street works. It’s all good now…
What about the Internet? Do you see it as a positive tool for artists?
Initially I did, but these days it seems there’s just too much online. Everyone has jumped on the street art boat. It’s a bit overwhelming, and – at times – not as special anymore.
Your work has been exhibited in a range of galleries. Any thoughts about the gallery scene?
I’m open to all options and opportunities to share my work in public spaces. I’m not comfortable at times with the scene. I seek to have welcoming and genuine experiences, but at times it feels a bit too serious.
Where are you based these days?
This year I decided to move back to my homeland, Ecuador. I love New York and I love its energy. It gives me so much, but every now and then I need a break from the daily grind. It’s exhausting. Ecuador is far more relaxing for the kind of work I want to focus on today. The cost of living is amazing! Living expenses are minimal. Beautiful spring weather all year round, and everything is organic and farm-raised. I feel a lot healthier there – mentally, spiritually and physically. I dip back into NY every couple of months now for projects and to visit my friends. It’s working out better than I had imagined.
I am going to start a new series of street works in Quito, Ecuador soon. I will be sure to keep you guys posted! I am also getting ready to drop a new print series in the fall entitled “Love Warrior” which will be sold exclusively online at: http://www.tooflynyc.com/shop For gallery exhibits and new product releases you can log into my facebook page.
‘sounds great! We’re looking forward…
Photos by Dani Mozeson, Tara Murray & Lois Stavsky