Public Art Projects

Working with paintbrush in hand, award-winning Manhattan-based artist Miguel Diego Colón recently brought his skills and vision to First Street Green Art Park. After he had finished his mural, I posed a few questions to him:

Although your artwork surfaced publicly this past year on a huge billboard near the Kings Plaza Shopping Center, this was the first time you actually painted in public. What was that experience like?

It was amazing! I loved interacting with passersby who stopped to watch me. I loved hearing people’s interpretations of what I was doing. And I felt flattered when people took photos of the mural and of me while I was painting.

All of your images reference some kind of economic or social injustice. How did you decide which images to incorporate into your mural?

I researched online the term “social justice.” I then visually interpreted particular issues that stood out…that particularly mattered to me.

And so the overall theme of your mural is social justice — or the lack of it.

Yes. I am concerned with oppression of all kinds…what it means to have one’s rights taken away.

Is there any particular segment of the mural that you especially like? 

One of my favorite segments is the image of the couple embracing during the collapse of a sweatshop. I like the way it represents connection — the way people can connect, especially during trying times.

What’s ahead?

I’m currently applying for a number of grants. And I would love, of course, more opportunities to paint in public spaces. I’m also working in my Fountain House Gallery studio on a painting modeled on my First Street Green Art Park mural, “Liberty’s Last Embrace.”

It sounds great! Good luck with it all! And, thank you, Jonathan Neville and First Street Green Art Park.

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

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Born and based in the Italian town of Civitanova Marche, the wonderfully talented multidisciplinary artist Giulio Vesprini will be bringing his vision here to NYC this coming week. A brief interview with the artist follows:

You’ve studied art formally at the Academy of Fine Arts in Macerata and at the Department of Architecture in Ascoli Piceno. What spurred you to turn your talents to public spaces?

My two greatest passions are graphics and architecture. And thanks to the outstanding teachers I had in both disciplines, I came up with a way to combine my passions: archigraphia. I view painting in public spaces as a superior expression of art.

When and where did you first paint in a public space?

I started painting when I was fourteen yeas old. It was back in 1994. Using two old spray cans, I painted a big face on an abandoned wall. It seemed really ugly!  I didn’t know what I was doing, but it was fun doing it. I felt free, and it was a wonderful feeling!  At that moment, I understood that the wall was my only true canvas. 

Your work seems to straddle the lines between graphic design, fine art and street art. Can you tell us a bit about your process? Do you work with a sketch in hand or just let it flow?

Each one of my works is planned in terms of the space that will hold it. I always combine graphic language with the language of architecture. I always bring with me a drawing, along with some landscape photos. I feel that every street artist has to consider the site on which he is working — in terms of its distinct story and locale. Urban art should fuse with the specific space and not prevail over it. 

Have you collaborated with other artists?  Are there any artists out there with whom you’d like to collaborate?

Yes, I have collaborated with many others street artists. Among my most interesting collaborations were those with Aris and 108, two italian street artists. I’d like to paint with MOMO and Rubin415. I very much like their styles, and I think that they have a perfect understandng of architecture.

Have you exhibited your work in gallery settings? If so, where?

I’ve exhibited in Milan, Florence and in Bologna. Now I wish to show my art works in galleries in other countries — like Germany and France. I dream of having a show in the United States.

What’s ahead?  

I’ll be in NYC from August 5 though August 22. I am excited to be painting at rag & bone on East Houston Street, and I look forward to other opportunities to paint in NYC, as well. In September, I will be in France for an international street art festival and then off to projects in Rome, Turin and others Italian cities.

Photos

1  Mural for school in Civitanova Marche, Italy for project cordinated by Vedo a Colori

2  Final wall for the second edition of the Manufactory Project in Comacchio, Italy

3  Final wall for the Pennelli Ribelli Festival in Bologna, Italy

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; photos courtesy of the artist

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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One of my favorite spots in town is East Harlem’s Guerrilla Gallery. Located on 116th Street, between second and third Avenues, it hosts some of the most authentic walls found anywhere. Always reflecting the spirit of the folks who either live in East Harlem or identify with its culture, the art that surfaces there is often political, provocative and celebratory. The aerosol portrait featured above was painted by Mexican artist Tomer Linaje.

This summer’s installation, produced by the Harlem Art Collective, is a salute to Harlem. Several images I captured of the current installation while exploring the neighborhood this past week follow:

Evelyn C Suarez, Rashida Stewart and more

Adam Bomb with Rafael Gama, bottom right

Rafael Gama, closer-up

Kristy McCarthy aka Dorothy Gale, Shani Evans, Rashida Stewart and more

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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Located on 120th Street and Park Avenue in East Harlem, Eugene McCabe Field is now home to two tantalizing public art installations.  Featured above is a close-up from local fiber artist Naomi RAG‘s 12 x 24 foot mural fashioned from yarn.

A larger segment of the mural

The mural, La Flor De Mi Madre, in its entirety

Harlem-based Capucine Bourcart, Eat Me!, a photographic mosaic of approximately 1,500 printed metal square pictures of local healthy food — asking to be eaten!

Photos captured at dusk in the heat by Lois Stavsky

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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A cultural event that takes place on the Dutch King’s birthday, Kings Spray celebrated its 4th edition this year. Under the curatorial direction of Street Art Today founder Peter Ernst Coolen, local, national and international street artists and graffiti writers painted on container-installations scattered around the NDSM Wharf in front of the soon-to-be-open international street art and graffiti museum. The boldly-hued mural featured above was painted by Mexican artist Cix Mugre. Several more images — all captured by travel and street photographer Karin du Maire aka Street Art Nomad — follow:

Barcelona-based Dune

Spanish artist Malakkai and Dutch duo Karski and Beyond

The Amsterdam-based duo Pipsqueak Was Here!!!

Denmark-based Balstroem and Richard Holmes

The legendary NYC-based Blade posing with Queen Taraji in front of tribute mural by Swiss artist Soy R2F with pieces by Blade & UK-based Dominic950

Photos by Karin du Maire aka Street Art Nomad 

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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I’ve been mesmerized by Vanessa Rosa‘s distinctly beautiful and engaging aesthetic since I first came upon the Brazilian artist’s mural painting several years ago — as part of the Faces on the Blue Wall project — outside Lisbon’s Julio de Matos Psychiatric Hospital. We initially met up as she was beginning her residency at Red Hook’s Pioneer Works in 2017 and reconnected last week.

You are quite nomadic! Can you tell us a bit about your recent travels and adventures? Where have you been in the past year?

Yes! I visited Thailand for the Dinacon, the Digital Naturalism Conference, an experimental conference about exploring new ways of interacting with nature. I then traveled to China, where I visited the Shanghai K11 Art Mall, the first art mall in Mainland China. While in China, I also visited fiber optics fabric factories in Shenzhen, because I am interested in creating crazy patterns with this material. Following a brief visit to NYC and Boston, I spent time in a music producer’s space in Sao Paulo, where I painted and got to know rappers — especially Nego Bala — from the favelas. I spent the month of September in the Amazon beginning an artistic partnerhsip with the extraordinary shaman and artisan, Same Putumi.

In October, I traveled to Frankfurt to represent my family’s publishing company, Viajante do Tempo, at the Frankfurt Book Fair. From Frankfurt I went to Berlin and then London. Finally back in Brazil, I produced a show at the Museum of Image and Sound in São Paulo, and also worked with Same Putumi and with my friend, the architect Veronica Natividade.

Wow! You are amazing! What brought you back to the US?

I’d been invited to participate in next year’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival, an annual exposition of living cultural heritage on the National Mall in Washington, DC. It  is DC’s largest cultural event. In 2020, the festival will explore how diverse domains of cultural knowledge—from religion to design to science—shape the ways we understand, experience and respond to ever-changing natural, social and built environments.

And why New York City? Why did you choose to work in New York City?

I want to make things happen. And for someone who wants to have access and impact, no other city is as important as this one. I am, in fact, in the process of applying for an artist’s visa.

Your studio space here at the NYC Resistor in Downtown Brooklyn is extraordinary in terms of its equipment and resources.

Yes. My residency here at the NYC Resistor is ideal. We meet regularly to share knowledge, hack on projects together and build community. It is the perfect match as it is so rich in technology. And interacting with its other members advances my research and the projects that I’d started earlier with Same Putumi.

Can  you tell us something more about your mission — particularly regarding your collaborative work with Same Putumi?

My mission is to save the Amazon through the recognition of knowledge systems possesssed by indigenous groups. The Amazon’s genetic diversity is more important than gold. We must recognize and strengthen indigenous people’s knowledge systems. It is a knowledge they have attained from a high level of observation that no scientist can reach.

And what about your new drawings?

I’m combining 16th century drawings — by the Italian artist Serlio — on how to use linear perspective with Islamic patterns and 17th century crazy character drawings by Braccelli. And I’m doing this with a drawing machine!

What about public art? Mural Art? Will you be doing anything here in NYC? Can we expect to see anything soon?

Yes! I will keep you posted!

That sounds great! I’m looking forward!

Note: On Saturday, July 13, 1-4pm, Vanessa will be presenting a workshop on watercolor at the NYC Resistor, 87  3rd Avenue, 4th Floor in Brooklyn. Information and tickets are available here.

Photo credits: 1, 4 & 5 Lois Stavsky; all others courtesy of the artist; interview conducted by Lois Stavsky

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A lover of words — both spoken and written — I’ve been a huge fan of Jay Shells’ (Jason Shelowitz’s) ambitious rap project from my first glimpse of his site-specific mural on Myrtle and Broadway several years ago. The recently released The Rap Quotes Coast to Coast — published by Dokument Press — is a photographic foray into Jay Shells’ brilliant urban interventions installed in several key cities from 2013-2018.  Accompanied with maps of site-specific rap lyrics, it is an homage to hip-hop, the spirit of the streets and to street art.

Traveling with photographer and award-winning videographer Aymann Ismail, Jay installed over 400 site-specific interventions. Largely displayed as street signs, the rap lyrics sometimes surfaced on billboards, bus stops, phone booth advertising takeovers and painted murals.

While the first segment of the book focuses on NYC — the birthplace of hip-hop in the early 80’s –The Rap Quotes Coast to Coast  also transports us to neighboring Philly, across the country to LA and then to Atlanta and Houston.

Providing a window into the psychology and cultural differences among the varied sites, the playfully poetic lyrics are witty and sly and— in the vein of rap — often hyperbolic. And offering further insights into it all, each city documented in The Rap Quotes Coast to Coast is introduced by a hip-hop journalist. 

The Rap Quotes Coast to Coast is widely available in bookstores and online and can be purchased here.

All photos courtesy Dokument Press; book review by Lois Stavsky

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Just a few blocks from the Kings Plaza Shopping Center in Flatbush, Brooklyn, a huge, beautifully-crafted, provocative billboard greets passersby. I’d met the artist, Miguel Diego Colón, several months ago in the studio he shares with other Fountain House artists in the Silks Building in Long Island City. At the time he was working on the images he’d planned to incorporate into this project. I recently had the opportunity to catch up with him and find out more about this ambitious venture:

What an impressive, powerful mural “Stand Up” is!  Can you tell us something about its theme? Its intent?

I was interested in creating a public mural that reflects the many forms of oppression that I have faced and have observed in my community here in New York City. Among these are: the destructive forces of racism, sexism, inequality, and the stigma against those struggling with mental illness. It is my way of providing solidarity with others who are oppressed.

Did any specfic recent events or incidents spur you to focus on these themes of inequality and resistance?

I had heard about a photographer who had been slammed to the ground at a Trump rally. And that had me thinking about all the bullying that has been taking place at various Trump rallies and the importance of  “standing up.”

How were you able to access such a huge, visible space?

Betty Eastland, a peer-specialist and artist, working at Fountain House Studio had sent me a link to 14×48, a non-profit project that repurposes vacant billboards as public art spaces. 14×48‘s mission is to create opportunities for artists to engage with public art. I sent 14×48 a sketch, along with a proposal, and examples of other paintings on the theme of social justice. I was amazed when I found out that I had been selected.

How long did you work on “Stand Up?”

About five months. Once I was ready to paint, I constructed stretcher bars. I then started with graissaile before adding paint.

This was your first public mural. How have folks responded to it?

Everyone has been so supportive. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.

What’s next?

 I would love to create more work in public spaces. I think of it as an audition to do more public works. And I’d love to bring my vision to Manhattan. Times Square would be ideal!

Yup! That would be great! And congratulations on “Stand Up.”

Photo credits: 1, 3 & 4 Courtesy of the artist; 2, 5 & 6 Lois Stavsky

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Note: To find out more about Miguel–his educational background, influences, personal circumstances — you can read an extended interview here.

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Conceived and curated by Ad Hoc Art, the Welling Court Mural Project has been transforming Welling Court and its neighboring blocks in Astoria, Queens for the past decade. Featured above are the works of See One and Hellbent who once again shared their talents with us in this community-driven project. Several more images that Ana Candelaria and I captured this past Sunday follow:

 Roberto Castillo and Kork93

 Jeromy Velasco in memory of the Stonewall Riots’ 50th anniversary —  for NYC Pride with the LISA Project NYC

The legendary Greg Lamarche aka SP.ONE 

Queens-based Free5 captured at work

And an hour later

Never Satisfied

Joe Iurato pays homage to Keith Haring 

Welling Court Mural Project founder and curator Garrison Buxton for NYC Pride with the LISA Project NYC (close-up from huge mural) — and Yes One and more graffiti art below

Photo credits: 1, 4, 6, 9 & 10 Lois Stavsky; 2, 3, 5 & 7 Ana Candelaria 

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I was delighted to have the opportuity to meet up with the multi-talented Bogota-based artist Andres Osuna aka Bochica who is currently visiting NYC — ready and eager to share his vision with us.

When and where did you first start painting on the streets?

I began ten years ago while I was studying filmmaking in Buenos Aires, The first mural I ever painted was a Tree of Life in Palermo.

What inpired you to do so? Why did you choose to hit the streets?

Because the streets belong to everyone. It is our collective home. Working on the streets enables me to communicate with and share knowledge with a wide community. I see painting on the streets as a revolutionary act.

Do you paint with any crews?

I’m a member of the art collective Renova. Our mission is to transform deteriorated or abandoned urban areas into pedagogical platforms using art as a tool.

Do you generally work in illegal or legal spaces?

I’d say 90% of what I do is illegal.

What is your family’s attitude towards what you do?

They are so supportive! My mother is a warrior. She was the first fire-woman in Colombia. She has always taught me to follow my passion.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

All of it!

What is the source of your income?

It’s all art-related. Commissions…set design…festivals…video shoots.

That’s quite impressive! Have you a formal art education?

I’m self-taught.  I studied filmmaking, but not visusal arts.

How do you feel about the role of social media in this scene?

I think it’s a good tool; it helps us artists connect with each other.

What is the riskiest thing you’ve ever done on the streets? And why did you do it?

Painting in very dangerous neighborhoods — where I had to worry about both the police and the local gangs.Why did I do it? Because it was necessary–

Do you work with a sketch-in-hand? Or do you just let it flow?

I do both. It depends on the circumstances. But I do best when I work from my head.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

Sometimes!

Are there any particular artists out there who inspire you?

I’m inspired by Diego Rivera and the entire school of social realism. As far as living artists, Obey is a personal favorite. I like his aesthetic of resistance. I also love Banksy‘s sarcasm. And I’m a huge fan of Bordalo and the way he uses trash to create amazing public artworks. My stencil art has been inspired by the Bogata-based collective Excusasdo.

What about cultures? Do any specific ones inspire you?

Indigenous cultures inspire me. I’ve been hugely influenced by many native civilizations, particularly the Chibcha one.

How has your work evolved since you first started painting on the streets over a decade ago?

I feel that everything I’d done up until now was experimentation. My style is far more developed and my ideas are far more synthesized.

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

I see the artist as a model for transformation. Just as an artist can show us how a surface can be transformed, the artist can teach us how to transform the world.

What’s ahead?

I’d like to continue to grow as an artist to help transform myself and the world. Hopofully, I have a few decades ahead.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; all photos courtest of the artist

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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