Speaking with the legendary stikman

November 28, 2012

"stikman street art"

Our beloved stikman has been part of New York City’s visual landscape for as long as we can remember.  We’ve seen him in an amazing array of styles on countless surfaces.  We’ve always wondered about the artist behind one of our favorite street art charactersStreetArtNYC recently had the opportunity to ask him a few questions.

When was stikman born?

This year marks his 20th anniversary.

What inspired you to create him?

I was flea market – hunting when I came upon an old plaster plaque depicting a man made of sticks who had, somehow, fled the hold of the plaster.   I was intrigued.  His escape and the many forms and shapes he could take on his journey gripped my imagination.  And that was the beginning of this artistic journey.

Where did your first stikman surface?

In 1992 in the East Village. I constructed about 50 that first year – all from unpainted basswood. About four years later, I started painting 3-D stikmen and also designing stickers.

"stikman 3-D street art"

 Had you a presence on the streets before stikman?

I started getting my name up when I was 14 years old, and later on I was into writing anti-war statements in public spaces. I’ve been building brick and stick towers since then as well.

We’ve seen our beloved stikman in a variety of media. Can you tell us something about them?

I’ve fashioned stikman from a range of materials including: metal, wood, cloth and plastic objects. Among the objects I’ve painted over are: LP record covers, prints, playing cards and book pages.

Have you any favorite surfaces?

I like flat metal as well as walls covered in paste-ups and stencils. But I especially love old, deteriorated urban elements that have been altered by time.

"stikman street art"

Have you any message to convey with stikman?

No. I like my art to speak for itself. There is no hidden message or meaning in the traditional sense, but it is possible to analyze the work on many levels if one is so inclined.  I do hope that the viewers develop a keen sense of the visual environment that is all around them.

Stikman has been quite ephemeral in certain locations. How do you feel about folks removing your art?

It’s disappointing, but I don’t view my art as “precious.”  When it vanishes, the space eventually returns to its previous state.

As evidenced by what we’ve encountered on the streets this past year and seen at Williamsburg’s Pandemic and Philly’s Stupid Easy galleries, stikman continues to evolve – in quite ingenious ways. What percentage of your time is devoted to him?

Most of it.  And I spend lots of time in flea markets and wandering the streets, which are constant sources of inspiration.

"stikman street art"

How does your family feel about all this?

My wife and kids love what I do. They’re all big stikman fans.

In addition to Pandemic and Stupid Easy, your work has been featured in exhibits at Factory Fresh and at Woodward Gallery. How do you feel about the movement of street art and graffiti into galleries?

Conscientious galleries can help the public understand art that is new and challenging. I encourage anyone who’s making a living by producing and exhibiting art.

Any thoughts about the graffiti/street art divide?

At its core we all work in that vibrant zone where art meets real life in the space we all share.  There are so many art movements, and they all inspire one another.

"stikman street art"

Have you found inspiration in any particular public art projects?

Christo’s “Wall of Oil Barrels-Iron Curtain, Rue Visconti, Paris” circa 1962. When I was young, I saw photos of it  I realized I was also an artist.

Have you had any particularly frightening or disturbing experiences while out on the streets with stikman?

Almost getting run over while stenciling him onto the pavement at a busy intersection was somewhat scary.  And I’ve been in some areas I shouldn’t have been in though I believe in taking my art into troubled neighborhoods.

"stikman street art on pavement"

How do you feel about the role of the Internet in all this?

I embrace it. It has allowed artists and art enthusiasts from many places and cultures to have an awareness of art projects they were unlikely to experience any other way.  My personal experience, however, is that encountering this art in its natural location has the most visual satisfaction and transcendent possibilities.

What’s ahead?

Nothing is planned. Stikman will continue to evolve. It’s all serendipity. I am working on the 7th edition of the ten year cycle tribal/insect stikman. Look for him on the streets starting in January.

 ‘sounds great.  We are looking forward!

Photos by Dani Mozeson and Lois Stavsky

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

TARA August 23, 2013 at 3:17 am

I’ve just discovered Stikman in the crosswalks in the Capitol Hill area in Denver and I love it. My co-worker and I take walks every day and recently we noticed this decal robot man in the crosswalk. Then we began to notice more and more of them. Our walks feel like a little treasure hunt now as we keep our eyes peeled for the next little robot. Thanks for the brightening our day!

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marina September 28, 2014 at 4:26 am

Fascinated with the stikman but haven’t spotted one in wellington

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Abby January 7, 2016 at 4:04 pm

I first noticed stickman in the pavement when I attended Lollapalooza in Chicago. I recently moved to Virginia and found another stickman on the pavement in Washington DC. I didn’t know what it was, but after finding him across the country, I was prompted to look it up. I had suspected a guerilla street artist. stickman is great.

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Kate April 3, 2016 at 4:34 am

I noticed Stikman ~2010 in my city, Seattle. I would walk and stare at my feet and notice a “robot” on the crosswalks. Once with my boyfriend, I made a quirky robot “be-boop be-boop” noise while walking over one. It became a running joke for us. We moved to Philadelphia in 2014 for work/school and despite my homesickness, the “crosswalk robots” would lighten my mood and help me realize that I’m never too far from home. Thanks Stikman! Always a fan.

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Leon moeller September 20, 2016 at 12:08 pm

I found a robot sticker on a street in ann arbor michigan made out of the same material as the street lines. I took a photo and posted it on my instagram. I then found a guy on face book using another similar looking robot cut out of the same material. This guy saw his in Indianapolis. Compiling my curiosity we found this web site explaining the mystery. Was this an authentic stikman, or done by another? Would post a picture of it if I had an option to do so….

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lois September 20, 2016 at 2:50 pm

Send a pic to loisstavsky@gmail.com I will get back to you!

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Travis February 12, 2017 at 9:53 pm

Richmond va. N. 2nd street and e. Marshall st.

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sasocali November 5, 2017 at 8:38 pm

Stikman goes to the Capital 😃

Saw him on the National Mall in Washington DC. Behind the Hirshorn Museum, 7th St & Jefferson. Wasn’t sure what I was looking at until I saw other online images. Finding it was a special experience!

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