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 characters. StreetArtNYC 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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