Speaking with Sienide

August 13, 2014

sienide portraits rooftop Bronx NYC Speaking with Sienide

Bronx-based Sienide aka Sien is one of NYC’s most versatile artists. His delightful compositions — in a range of styles from masterful graffiti writing to soulful portraits — continue to grace public spaces throughout the boroughs. I recently had the opportunity to interview him:

When did you first get up?

I started tagging and bombing on the Grand Concourse in 1981 with my older brother. I was living at 176th street and Morris Ave. I did my first piece in 1985 with my then-bombing partner SEPH. Jean13 was also there, and he helped me shape up my letters. Ironically, my first piece was also a legal commission.

What was your preferred surface back then?

I really wanted to get into the yards. But I couldn’t, so I hit trailers instead. There was a great lot over in Castle Hill, where we painted and made a tree-house to store our supplies.

What inspired you to get up?

Everybody around me was writing.

sienide street art Bronx NYC Speaking with Sienide

Did you paint alone or with crews?

Both. In 1986 IZ the Wiz put me down with TMB after he saw my black book. Since, I’ve painted with the best of the best: OTB, FX, KD, GOD (Bronx) and GOD (Brooklyn), MTAInd’s,  Ex-VandalsXMEN, and TATS CRU

What about these days? Do you paint only legally?

Oh, yes! I’m too old to play around, and I want to get paid for what I do. I also want to paint in peace.

How did your family feel about what you were doing back in the day?

They weren’t happy. When I was arrested for motion tagging with my cousin on the 6 train, my uncle — who was my dad at the time —  told me that no one would ever hire me because I defaced public property.

Sienide paints Biggie Speaking with Sienide

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

At least 85% of it.

What is your main source of income these days?

It’s all art-related. I sell my work, earn commissions for painting murals and I also teach.

Have you any thoughts about the street art and graffiti divide?

I love them both. I have forever been trying to marry them.

sienide paints  Speaking with Sienide

How do you feel about the movement of graffiti and street art into galleries?

I think it’s cool. I love to see my stuff hanging on walls, and when someone asks me to be in a show, I feel honored.

What about the corporate world? How do you feel about its engagement with graffiti and street art?

I have no problem with it. If the corporate bank writes me a check, I’ll cash it.

Is there anyone in particular you would like to collaborate with?

I would like to collaborate more with Eric Orr.

sien paints graffiti 5Pointz NYC Speaking with Sienide

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

The Internet is useful. It works for me.

Do you have a formal art education?

Yes I have a Masters Degree in Illustration from FIT.

Did this degree benefit you?

Yes, I now know my worth.

Sienide paints graffiti. NYC Speaking with Sienide

How would you describe your ideal working environment?

Outdoors, Florida-type weather and a generous paint sponsor.

What inspires you these days?

I’m inspired by the life I live and by the students I teach.

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced you?

The human culture.

sien b boy on canvas Speaking with Sienide

Do you work with a sketch in hand or just let it flow?

I work with a rough sketch, but I never have colors in it. This prevents me from becoming a slave to my reference, and it allows my creative mojo to experiment freely.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

Never.

How has your work evolved through the years?

My work keeps evolving and changing because I allow myself to experiment.  I don’t like being stuck in one particular mode. That bores me.

sien and Kid Lew graffiti Bronx NYC Speaking with Sienide

What do you see as the role of the artist in society?

To give back… to share a gift that we artists have with others.

How do you feel about the photographers in the scene?

I think they’re helpful, but they should share any profits they make with the artists whose works they photograph.

What’s ahead?

I hope to be still doing what I’m doing while advancing my skills. I hope never to lose my passion.

Interview by Lois Stavsky; photos 1, 2 and 8 (collaboration with Kid Lew) by Sienide; 3, 4 and 7 (on canvas) by Lois Stavsky; 5 (collaboration with Eric Orr) and 6 by Lenny Collado

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abstrk and Miss Reds graffiti street art NYC 2 004 East Coast Tour in Bushwick with Graffiti Artists: Abstrk, Miss Reds, Ewok, Duel, Ticoe, Jick, Aloy & more

Last weekend, the walls in Bushwick on Moore and White Streets became the canvas for Miami-based oo4′s East Coast tour. Here is a sampling of what was seen:

Ewok 5MH

Ewok graffiti letters NYC 004 East Coast Tour in Bushwick with Graffiti Artists: Abstrk, Miss Reds, Ewok, Duel, Ticoe, Jick, Aloy & more

Duel RIS

Duel MCI RIS graffiti Bushwick NYC 004 East Coast Tour in Bushwick with Graffiti Artists: Abstrk, Miss Reds, Ewok, Duel, Ticoe, Jick, Aloy & more

Ticoe

Ticoe graffiti NYC 2 004 East Coast Tour in Bushwick with Graffiti Artists: Abstrk, Miss Reds, Ewok, Duel, Ticoe, Jick, Aloy & more

Jick

Jick graffiti Bushwick NYC 004 East Coast Tour in Bushwick with Graffiti Artists: Abstrk, Miss Reds, Ewok, Duel, Ticoe, Jick, Aloy & more

Jick graffiti NYC 004 East Coast Tour in Bushwick with Graffiti Artists: Abstrk, Miss Reds, Ewok, Duel, Ticoe, Jick, Aloy & more

Miss Reds at work and more

abstrk graffiti Bushwick NYC 004 East Coast Tour in Bushwick with Graffiti Artists: Abstrk, Miss Reds, Ewok, Duel, Ticoe, Jick, Aloy & more

Aloy

Aloy graffitiNYC 004 East Coast Tour in Bushwick with Graffiti Artists: Abstrk, Miss Reds, Ewok, Duel, Ticoe, Jick, Aloy & more

First photo is of Abstrk and Miss Reds. All action photos by Tara Murray; all others by Dani Reyes Mozeson

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Marka57 art on canvas Bucketfeet At BucketFeet in SoHo with Marka27, JC Rivera, Jimmy Sheehan & more

Born in 2011, BucketFeet has since connected with over 2000 artists in more than 35 countries to design original footwear. But BucketFeet isn’t just about shoes. It is a celebration of artistic expression across cultures.  Here in New York City, a range of artists — from graffiti writers to tattooists to illustrators — not only share their designs on footwear at BucketFeet’s SoHo venue, but exhibit and sell their artworks there, as well. Here is a small sampling what we saw on a recent visit:

Marka27, this past month’s artist-in-residence, whose artwork has also graced our walls for the Juicy Art Festival

Marka57 art Bucketfeet At BucketFeet in SoHo with Marka27, JC Rivera, Jimmy Sheehan & more

Chicago-based JC Rivera

J C Rivera artwork bucketfeet nyx At BucketFeet in SoHo with Marka27, JC Rivera, Jimmy Sheehan & more

JC Rivera artwork At BucketFeet in SoHo with Marka27, JC Rivera, Jimmy Sheehan & more

New York-based Jimmy Sheehan

Jimmy Sheenan art Bucketfeet NYC At BucketFeet in SoHo with Marka27, JC Rivera, Jimmy Sheehan & more

Jimmy Sheehan art Bucketfeet SoHo NYC At BucketFeet in SoHo with Marka27, JC Rivera, Jimmy Sheehan & more

In addition to the works on exhibit, BucketFeet also sells dozens of wonderfully affordable prints both online and in its NYC store at 108 Wooster Street in SoHo.

Photos of artworks by Dani Reyes Mozeson

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Born in Argentina and now based in Brooklyn, Lucia Reissig is a young photographer and artist with a deep passion for street art and documenting the streets. I met her in late spring in Bushwick when I was interviewing the Argentinian artist Cabaio, whom she had photographed at work earlier that day.  We met again last week at Exit Room, and I had the opportunity, this time, to find out a bit about her.

lucia reissig cabaio new york Lucia Reissig on Photography, Street Art, Community and more

When did you first become interested in photography?

I was 12 years old and living in Buenos Aires.  I had told my mother’s friend that I was interested in photography, and he gave me a camera. It was a 35 mm Canon.

And then what happened?

I didn’t know what to do with it. And so I took my new Canon to a camera store, and the shop owner installed film for me and set it on “Automatic.” He said, “Just shoot!” So that’s what I did! And I fell in love with the art form at once.

Did you ever study photography on a formal basis?

Early on, I began visiting photographers’ studios, and I started taking classes with them. The classes were informal – with no more than five students in a class.

cabaio street art NYC Lucia Reissig on Photography, Street Art, Community and more

What — would you say — is photography’s appeal to you? What is it about this art form that so engages you?

With a camera in hand, I feel that I am somewhat in control of my environment. And it allows me to create compelling narratives. I am obsessed with paradoxes – and recording them.

What brought you to New York City?

I felt a strong need to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone.

How has living here affected you and your passion for photography?

I quickly found myself seeking other Spanish speakers and other immigrants. And the streets became even more important to me. I see public spaces as a reflection of society.

Lucia Reissig Rockaways Lucia Reissig on Photography, Street Art, Community and more

And what about street art?  You’ve documented hundreds of images. When first I met you, you had just finished photographing Cabaio at work over at the Bushwick Collective and you seem to be quite involved over here at Exit Room – one of my favorite spaces. What is the appeal of street art to you?

It serves as both a mirror of society and as a perfect expression of resistance. I love the way the artists take ownership of the streets, and their work on city streets looks amazing. Street art has the power to change a city – visually and psychically. It also makes art accessible to people who wouldn’t otherwise see it. It’s an always-open free museum. And documenting the art I discovered on these streets – along with its people – saved my life!

Have you any favorite artists who work on the streets?

Among my favorite ones are: Cabaio, Iena Cruz, Werc and Ever.

Lucia Reissig Lucia Reissig on Photography, Street Art, Community and more

What’s ahead for you?

Since coming to NYC, I’ve become more aware – than ever – as to the importance of community. There is a lack of community here, and there is a need for more alternative spaces where people can come together to create and to share. I am beginning an informal series of workshops on photography – similar to the ones I attended back in Buenos Aires. They are on a pay- what-you-can basis. I can be contacted at lucia.reissig@gmail.com.  And on a personal level, I am continuing a series I began earlier focusing on immigrant life here in NYC.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky. Photos by Lucia Reissig.

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stephen powers a love letter to the city Stephen Powers: A Love Letter to the City    A Look at the Book

The following guest post is by Houda Lazrak, a graduate student in Museum Studies at New York University.  

To the discontent of many, the corporate advertisements plaguing the urban landscape have become integral to our every-day visual vocabulary.  As a response, street art is often offered as an alternative platform to reclaim public space from the impersonal iconography of corporate publicity.  However, Philadelphia native Stephen Powers has employed that very language to empower his own personal vision.

Steve Powers Espo street art Stephen Powers: A Love Letter to the City    A Look at the Book

A Love Letter to the City tells the tale of how artist Steve Powers’ witty lettering and profound insight turned advertising on its head.  Authored by Powers himself, the book is a visually astonishing compilation of his large scale public art projects in cities across the globe, such as Philadelphia, New York City, Dublin, Sao Paulo and Johannesburg.  With each chapter focusing on a metropolis, the book illustrates the artist’s engagement and collaboration with local communities and art organizations to “reflect their collective visions and dreams… to make art for the people.”

Powers’ outrageously honest introduction retraces his debut into the graffiti world under the moniker of ESPO in Philadelphia.  In first-person narratives, he highlights his experiences and encounters that propelled him to the status of acclaimed public artist.  Readers are treated to his eloquent personal recollections, as well as captivating photographs of his beautifully executed street art pieces.

Stephen Powers street art NYC Stephen Powers: A Love Letter to the City    A Look at the Book

Steve Powers’ employs signage style graphics to produce poignant conceptual pieces, ranging from single word slogans to multiple line phrases. The publication’s images bear witness to Powers’ ability to marvelously blend colors into the pre-existing urban hues.  Prior to hand-painting site-specific murals, Powers deeply immersed himself in the spirit of each city.  He embraced the values and needs of communities, deciphered central issues of local histories, and appreciated the soul of its neighborhoods.

Steve Powers Street Art NY Stephen Powers: A Love Letter to the City    A Look at the Book

In Coney Island, Powers worked with local citizens to revitalize an abandoned space into a sign shop/social club. The shop produced street signage for the inhabitants free of charge, which served to invigorate local businesses, as well as to enhance the community’s visual landscape.  In another instance in Dublin, Powers altered his design plans when he saw a neighborhood recurrent tag: “Please call me, I am home, the door is open, ” followed by a phone number.  Inspired by the message of love and loneliness, Powers then created a mural that spoke to similar concerns.

steve powers Espo street art Philadelphia Stephen Powers: A Love Letter to the City    A Look at the Book

A Love Letter to the City provides invaluable insights into the creative mindset of a unique street artist.  It sheds light on the back-stories of his sign pieces, from his improbable conversations with passersby to the formally held community meetings.  Ultimately, the book illustrates how Powers and his team remarkably wove intricate typographic art into the fabric of multiple cities around the world.

All images courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press

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Outdoor Gallery New York City author and photographer Yoav Litvin continues readings from his book and conversations about New York City street art this evening, August 6, from 5-:30 – 7:30 at the Bronx Museum of the Arts. Among the topics he will discuss are: documenting street art and graffiti; constructing and editing interviews, and publishing and promoting his book.  Admission is free and you can hop off the Bronx Trolley that provides a free arts and culture tour of the South Bronx on the first Wednesday of every month. Yoav will be joined this evening by the wonderfully talented artist and art educator, Alice Mizrachi, who will speak about her own art and its evolution.

Alice Mizrachi street art NYC Outdoor Gallery New York City Author Yoav Litvin Continues Readings and Conversations with Alice Mizrachi, Jilly Ballistic and Chris Stain

On Wednesday, August 20, Yoav’s special guest, Brooklyn-based street and subway artist Jilly Ballistic, will join him at Word at 126 Franklin Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The discussion will begin at 7pm.

Jilly Ballistic street art NYC Outdoor Gallery New York City Author Yoav Litvin Continues Readings and Conversations with Alice Mizrachi, Jilly Ballistic and Chris Stain

And on Thursday, August 28, Chris Stain, one of our favorite stencil artists and muralists, will be joining Yoav at 7pm at the collectively-owned Bluestockings at 172 Allen Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Chris Stain Street Art NYC Outdoor Gallery New York City Author Yoav Litvin Continues Readings and Conversations with Alice Mizrachi, Jilly Ballistic and Chris Stain

Photos by Yoav Litvin

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This is the sixth in an occasional series featuring images of males who surface on NYC open spaces:

Icy and Sot at the Bushwick Collective

Icy and Sot Street Art NYC Guys on Walls, Part VI: Icy and Sot, Jason Coatney, Never, El Sol 25, Abstrk, Elbow Toe, Sien and Bradley Theodore

Jason Coatney in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Jason Coatney mural Greenpoint 2 Guys on Walls, Part VI: Icy and Sot, Jason Coatney, Never, El Sol 25, Abstrk, Elbow Toe, Sien and Bradley Theodore

Never in Bushwick

never street art Bushwick NYC Guys on Walls, Part VI: Icy and Sot, Jason Coatney, Never, El Sol 25, Abstrk, Elbow Toe, Sien and Bradley Theodore

El Sol 25 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

el sol 25 street art NYC Guys on Walls, Part VI: Icy and Sot, Jason Coatney, Never, El Sol 25, Abstrk, Elbow Toe, Sien and Bradley Theodore

Abstrk in Bushwick, Brooklyn — in this past weekend from Florida on the 004 East Coast tour

Abstrk graffiti character NYC 2 Guys on Walls, Part VI: Icy and Sot, Jason Coatney, Never, El Sol 25, Abstrk, Elbow Toe, Sien and Bradley Theodore

Elbow-Toe in Red Hook, Brooklyn

street art  Guys on Walls, Part VI: Icy and Sot, Jason Coatney, Never, El Sol 25, Abstrk, Elbow Toe, Sien and Bradley Theodore

Sien on Bronx Rooftop

sien street art Bronx 2 Guys on Walls, Part VI: Icy and Sot, Jason Coatney, Never, El Sol 25, Abstrk, Elbow Toe, Sien and Bradley Theodore

Bradley Theodore in downtown Manhattan

Bradley Theodore street art NYC Guys on Walls, Part VI: Icy and Sot, Jason Coatney, Never, El Sol 25, Abstrk, Elbow Toe, Sien and Bradley Theodore

Photos of Icy & Sot and Abstrk by Tara Murray; Jason Coatney, El Sol 25, Elbow-Toe and Bradley Theodore by Dani Reyes Mozeson; Sien by Lois Stavsky

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 Raquel Echanique and Al Ortiz and Joshua David McKenney Centre fuge Public Art Project Centre fuge Public Art Project — Cycle 14 with Raquel Echanique, Al Ortiz Jr, J David McKenney, Moody Mutz, Jeromy Velasco, Nether and Abiter

Last weekend, the DOT trailer at First Street off First Avenue was — once again — transformed into a beguiling open-air gallery. Here are a few more images:

Joshua David McKenney at work

Joshua David McKenney Centrefuge Centre fuge Public Art Project — Cycle 14 with Raquel Echanique, Al Ortiz Jr, J David McKenney, Moody Mutz, Jeromy Velasco, Nether and Abiter

Moody Mutz, Jeromy Velasco, Nether and Abitar

centre fuge public art project edited 1 Centre fuge Public Art Project — Cycle 14 with Raquel Echanique, Al Ortiz Jr, J David McKenney, Moody Mutz, Jeromy Velasco, Nether and Abiter

 Moody Mutz at work 

Mood Mutz spraypaint Centre fuge Public Art Project — Cycle 14 with Raquel Echanique, Al Ortiz Jr, J David McKenney, Moody Mutz, Jeromy Velasco, Nether and Abiter

Jeromy Velasco and Nether

Jeromy Velasco Nether Centrefuge Public Art Project NYC Centre fuge Public Art Project — Cycle 14 with Raquel Echanique, Al Ortiz Jr, J David McKenney, Moody Mutz, Jeromy Velasco, Nether and Abiter

Nether at work

Nether Centrefuge Public Art Project NYC Centre fuge Public Art Project — Cycle 14 with Raquel Echanique, Al Ortiz Jr, J David McKenney, Moody Mutz, Jeromy Velasco, Nether and Abiter

Abiter

Abitar CF14 Centre fuge Public Art Project NYC Centre fuge Public Art Project — Cycle 14 with Raquel Echanique, Al Ortiz Jr, J David McKenney, Moody Mutz, Jeromy Velasco, Nether and Abiter

This cycle of the Centre-fuge Public Art Project continues through September 25, 2014.

Note: The first photo features Raquel EchaniqueAl Ortiz Jr and Joshua David McKenney.

All photos by Dani Reyes Mozeson, except for Moody at work by Lois Stavsky

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SinXero ShadowsKissProduction street art Bronx SinXero, Sexer and Chris & Veng RWK Transform Bronx Skyline

The Tag Public Arts Project, founded and directed by SinXero, is continuing its transformation of the Bronx’s visual landscape. In addition to the alluring murals that have surfaced on the streets within the past few months, new artwork recently made its way up to a rooftop, visible from the 6 line.

Sexer (left) and SinXero at work:

sexer and sinXero rooftop art SinXero, Sexer and Chris & Veng RWK Transform Bronx Skyline

SinXero pays tribute to the legendary graffiti artist Christopher Lee aka Shadow in “Shadow’s Kiss”

Sexer paints Bronx NYC SinXero, Sexer and Chris & Veng RWK Transform Bronx Skyline

Sexeis “Soaring High”

sexer Bronx rooftop art NYC SinXero, Sexer and Chris & Veng RWK Transform Bronx Skyline

And Chris and Veng RWK bring their iconic characters along

Chris and Veng RWK Bronx rooftop art SinXero, Sexer and Chris & Veng RWK Transform Bronx Skyline

 All photos courtesy Tag Public Arts Project

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 Sheryo and the Yok: From the Jungles of Java to Krause Gallery on Manhattans Lower East Side

Two of our favorite artists, Sheryo and the Yok, have been busy — learning the ancient technique of Batik in Indonesia’s jungles of Java. The Yok reports that that he and Sheryo ”rode motorbikes around and spent two months in a small village in Java” creating one-of-a-kind works on fabric.  Opening tomorrow evening, Friday, August 1st, 7-9pm, at Krause Gallery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side is “Nasty Goreng,” featuring  a selection of these hand-made Batik artworks.

 Sheryo at work

Sheryo at work Sheryo and the Yok: From the Jungles of Java to Krause Gallery on Manhattans Lower East Side

Hoodbat Party

 Sheryo and the Yok: From the Jungles of Java to Krause Gallery on Manhattans Lower East Side

 Piña Colada Java Dreams

Sheryo and the Yok Pina Colada Java Dreams  Sheryo and the Yok: From the Jungles of Java to Krause Gallery on Manhattans Lower East Side

Fish Spray Spray

 Sheryo and the Yok: From the Jungles of Java to Krause Gallery on Manhattans Lower East Side

Krause Gallery is located at 149 Orchard Street near Rivington.  And for a more intimate look at it all, check out this wonderful video.

 All images courtesy of the artists.

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