graffiti art

Curious about the face behind the poetic, bright yellow stickers that have increasingly become part of NYC’s visual landscape, I was delighted to meet and speak to the beguiling My Life in Yellow.

We street art aficionados know you as My Life In Yellow. When was My Life in Yellow  born?

It was born ten years ago as the name of my blog when I first moved to New York.

Why Yellow?

I was always drawn to the color yellow. It was my grandmother’s favorite color. And when I was in college, my room was blue, while the room next to mine was yellow. The girl who dormed there was always happy, had yellow accessories and always wore the color yellow. The yellow room was so much more inviting and cheerful than mine that I soon began to surround myself with the color yellow.

When did you start slapping your stickers up on the street and why?

Several years ago, I met Thomas OKOK Gunnarsson aka TagsAndThrows. He introduced me to the street art/graffiti world. We walked around the city together as he photographed graffiti. One year later his friend, AllYouSeeIsCrimeInTheCity, a street art photographer based in Sweden, came on a visit to New York City. She gave me my first sticker and encouraged me to write on it. I was going through a difficult break-up at the time, so I wrote “Tell Him How You Feel” on a postal sticker. She slapped it for me in Soho.

What inspired you to keep making stickers and getting them up?

I started getting really positive feedback. And it was a kind of therapy for me as I was going through difficult times.  People started to reach out and say things like, “Now I know I’m not alone” and “Me too, omg — I feel this way.” I started to realize how similar we all are in our dark thoughts, what we don’t say out loud. That was the moment I felt, “This is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Have you any particularly memorable street art experiences?

I spontaneously slapped a sticker on a bridge in Berlin. The sticker read. “Tell Him How You Feel.” A girl nearby noticed it and commented, “A lot of people jump off that bridge.” I hadn’t thought of that! Another time I slapped a sticker on the Manhattan Bridge that said, “It’ll Be Ok.”  I did not realize until afterwards that I had slapped it on a suicide/help call box!

Who are some of your favorite sticker artists?

MQ and Token. I appreciate how consistent they are. I see their stickers everywhere!

 

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

Yes, I slap and I walk. And then when I revisit it, I feel like I’m visiting my child.

How has your street art evolved in the course of these these past five years?

Its intent and tone have stayed the same, but I also wheatpaste now. And I’ve painted directly onto walls–by myself and in collaboration with other artists.

What is your favorite piece that you’ve created?

That’s a tough one! “Once my lover, now my poem.” I find myself writing it a lot.

How long do you usually spend on each sticker?

It comes in spurts. I often write a whole bunch at one time. Sometimes it’s just spontaneous.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

Don’t tell my boss, but I think about it all the time.

Have you exhibited your work?

Yes! I’ve exhibited in several local spaces. When I first met Sac Six a few years back. he encouraged me get up on canvas.  I still make little canvases — that look like my stickers — that I show and sell in exhibitions. I’ve also created works that don’t resemble my stickers at all. I was recently featured in the Phoenix Rising exhibit at the Gala on 129 Allen Street, where one of my pieces sold.

Where else have your stickers traveled, besides the streets here in NYC?

London, Paris, Trinidad, Sweden, Berlin, LA, Miami. All placers I’ve been to. I prefer to slap stickers myself. There’s something special about it. It’s nice when people offer to slap my stickers up in other places, but I don’t give them out.

You’ve also painted in sanctioned public projects. Do you prefer working legally or illegally?

There’s something magical about pasting stickers up. I like its randomness, but I also enjoy working legally.

How has your family responded to your work on the streets?

They’re entertained by it. My father exhibits his photography. My grandfather was an artist.

Did you ever study art in a formal setting?

No, I’m self taught. I have a BA in business and a degree in Fashion Design from Parsons.

What are some of your other interests?

Spoken word poetry. I’ve performed in various venues. And I recently curated an event to help raise money for the JED Foundation.

Where are you headed? Any recent projects?

I recently collaborated with street art photographer Ana Candelaria. Ana’s photos always make me so happy. I love how she captures my stickers out in the wild: weather-faded, slapped-over and scratched-off. I love her documentation of their deterioration. Her photos really speak to me and I’m looking forward to many more collaborations with Ana. I‘ve also just released a chapbook of my poetry, Despite it all.  Where am I headed? I’d like to travel the world, get on stages with my poetry, paint more murals and conduct workshops on the power of words.

That all sounds great! What do you see as the artist’s role in society?

To help people feel something.

Note: You can purchase My Life In Yellow‘s recently-released poetry book together with Ana Candelaria‘s photograph of her iconic sticker as a PHOTO PRINT & CHAPBOOK BUNDLE PRE-SALE here.

Interview conducted and edited for brevity by Lois Stavsky with Ana Candelaria

Photo credits: 1 (featuring Ana’s photograph) – 3, 6, (featuring My Life In Yellow‘ s collaboration with Androi 0i for Underhill Walls 7 & 9 Lois Stavsky; 4, 5, 8, 10 & 11 Ana Candelaria 

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Featuring a superlative documentation of NYC’s golden age of graffitiHenry Chalfant: Art vs. Transit, 1977-1987 remains on view at the Bronx Museum through March 8With his remarkable eye, vision and passion, the award-winning visual anthropologist Henry Chalfant captured a culture that has since evolved into a global phenomenon impacting the entire art establishment. Featured above is Henry Chalfant, as seen at the Bronx Museum several days after the exhibit’s official opening. What follows are several more photos — some captured at the September 25 2019 opening by travel and street photographer Karin du Maire aka Street Art Nomad — and others as seen on subsequent visits.

 Documentation of graffiti on NYC subway trains

Re-creation of Futura graffiti on subway train, 1980

Henry Chalfant — with Bio, Tats Cru to his right — as captured on opening night

Recreation of Henry Chalfant,‘s early studio featuring Tats Cru, Tracy 168 and more

John “Crash” Matos with noted graffiti documentarian and author Jim Prigoff  to his right — as captured on opening night

Martha Cooper — with camera in hand on opening night — turns her lens on Bgirl Rokafella, Jose Parla, Jerry MazeJorge Fabel Pabon and DJ KaySlay 

More photos of trains with quote by Carlos Mare aka Mare 139 to their left: “We may have lost the trains, but we’ve gained the whole world.”

The Bronx Museum is located at 1040 Grand Concourse and is easily accessible by the B, D and 4 trains. Visiting hours for this “must see” exhibit are: Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday 11:00 am – 6:00 pm and Friday, 11:00 am – 8:00 pm.

Photo credits: 1, 2, 4, 6 & 7 Karin du Maire aka Street Art Nomad;  3, 5 & 8 Lois Stavsky

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The walls up in Inwood — home to veteran NYC writers and their guests — are a treasure trove of graffiti and graffiti history.  The image featured above was painted by native New Yorker Panic Rodriguez, who grew up writing graffiti in the 80’s. Several more images that Ana Candelaria and I captured this past Sunday follow:

Bronx-bred, Jersey City-based  Ree Vilomar 

Classic Bronx-bred writer Clyde

Veteran Uptown writers Keon and Rocky 184

Bronx-based TC5 crew member Sound7

Devils of Graffiti member Ses, who — according to my research — recently passed  

Legendary Old School writers Lava, Tony 164 and Snake 188 with (what looks like) Oops1 on top 

All of these walls can be found on and off 10th Avenue between 207th Street and 2016th Streets, off the 1 line.

Photo credits: 1-3 & 7 Ana Candelaria; 4-6 Lois Stavsky

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On view from February 7 through February 29 at the The Catholic Institute of Toulouse is Next Wave, an exhibition featuring new works by the NYC-based graffiti legend Chris Ellis aka Daze. What follows are several images of artworks from the upcoming show produced in collaboration with the art agency City Of Talents, founded by Geraud Jean Claude:

Taxi Ride, 2019, Aerosol, acrylic, oil on canvas

Undersea Dream, 2018, Acrylic on canvas

Brooklyn Sunset, 2019, Aerosol, acrylic, oil on canvas

Don’t go that way, go this way, 2019, Acrylic and aerosol on canvas

The exhibition opens on February 6 at 6:30 pm with the artist in presence and remains on view Wednesdays to Fridays from 3:30 to 8:30 PM and Saturdays from 3 to 8 PM at 31 Rue de la Fonderie in Toulouse through February 29.  To request  a digital copy of the exhibition catalog, contact Geraud Jean Claude at cityoftalents@hotmail.com,

Photos courtesy Geraud Jean Claude

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Under the curatorial skills and direction of NJ-based Darrius-Jabbar Sollas aka Nasty Neo, the rotating walls in Hackensack’s Union Street Park brim with bold rhythms and swooping patterns. Featured above is the work of NYC-bred, Jersey City-based Raul Rubio aka Sue Works. Several more recently-captured images follow:

New York-based Jamie Hef

Bronx native Yes One

Brooklyn-based 5PointzCreates founder Meres One

Bronx native Abe BT5

Bronx native Pase BT

Bronx Team veteran writer Jew

A segment of the park — featuring (from left to right) TenseOneMeres OneSue Works, Sade TCM, HefPase and Jew

Photos: Dani Reyes Mozeson

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Always a treasure trove of first-rate graffiti, North Philly’s 5th Street and Cecil B Moore, along with its immediate surroundings, has expanded since my last visit. There are now additional walls — curated by Tameartz —  in the new performance and event venue, Sunflower Philly. Featured above is the work of Philly-based Saoka DRR with Imse DBR to his right. What follows are several more murals that I came upon last week in the general location:

BustaImse, Desilmula, Michael Pistash and Tameartz 

Seoz

Rams

Medic

Alex25 and Veer

Easy B2B

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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The following guest poet is by Lower East Side-based photographer Ana Candelaria:

Curated by Fernando “Ski” Romero, Here & Now honors the works of Bronx graffiti legends Tats Cru a.k.a The Mural Kings and the legendary John “Crash” Matos “for laying the groundwork for so many other aspiring artists and helping establish Graffiti for the true art form that it is.” Also featured alongside Tats Cru and Crash are the works of Daze, Nick WalkerEric Orr and curator Ski. The exhibition continues through January 12 at Pop International, 195 Bowery at Spring Street.

The image feature above, Dreams Don’t Die, was fashioned by Bio Tats Cru with spray paint, markers and ink on canvas. Several more images follow:

Nicer Tats Cru, The Mattress, Acrylic and spray paint on canvas

BG 183 Tats Cru, The Night That Never Sleeps, Mixed media on canvas

Crash, Silver Color Swatch, Spray paint on canvas

Daze, The Dark Night, Oil, acrylic, spray paint on canvas

Nick Walker, RGB Supreme, Mixed media on canvas

Eric Orr, Painting, Mixed media on canvas

Fernando “Ski “Romero, Break Up, Mixed media on canvas

Gallery hours are: Monday through Saturday 10:00am to 7:00pm; Sunday 11:00am to 6:00pm or by appointment 212.533.4262.

Photos of artworks:  2-4, 7 & 8 Ana Candelaria; 1, 5 & 6 Lois Stavsky

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Opening this week in Wynwood, Miami is the Museum of Graffiti, the world’s first museum dedicated solely to graffiti art.  Fostering an understanding of the work of the pioneering graffiti artists, who started tagging in the New York subways in the early 1970s, the museum’s permanent exhibition, under the curatorial direction of Alan Ket, features paintings, photographs, mixed media sculptures, assorted memorabilia and interactive installations “that will allow visitors to travel through time and learn about the evolution of the worldwide graffiti art movement.”

Featured above is veteran all-city writer Charles Henry aka Flip One, captured back in the day by graffiti writer and photographer Flint Gennari.  Several more photos, taken by travel and street photographer Karin du Maire aka Street Art Nomad while previewing the Museum of Graffiti last week, follow:

Museum co-founder and lead curator Alan Ket

Vintage spray paint cans 

NYC-based writers Ghost aka Cousin Frank and Giz

Graffiti pioneers Mare139, Blade, Ero, Sonic Bad and Lady Pink

Masters Mare139Doze Green, Defer and JonOne

Defer , closer up

And the branding of the art form

Also featured at the Museum of Graffiti’s inaugural exhibition is a special exhibit showcasing works by Amsterdam-based calligraffiti master Niels Meulman a.k.a. Shoe. Open daily, except for Tuesday, from 11am to 7pm, the Museum of Graffiti is located in the heart of Wynwood at 299 NW 25th Street, Miami. And in addition to what is housed and takes place indoors, the exterior boasts a range of rotating murals by first-rate graffiti artists.

Photos: Karin du Maire aka Street Art Nomad 

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The wonderfully talented Menace Two and Resa Piece have merged their sensibilities and skills to fashion a captivatingly stunning array of murals that have made their way not only throughout NYC, but across the country. I was delighted to have the opportunity meet up with them in their Bushwick home that they’ve aptly titled “Street Art Sanctuary ” — a spacious  graffiti/street art haven that Menace and Resa also host as an Airbnb. 

When and where did you first get up? And what inspired you to do so?

Resa: I started in 2015. The first wall I ever did was in the Bronx, but I painted mostly in Brooklyn at the time – often in Bushwick. What inspired me to? While I was living in Flushing, I used to regularly ride past 5Pointz on the 7 train. I thought it was all so amazing. I remember thinking, “Why would someone do this?” But it was awhile before I actually did it!   The sense that I had something to prove – that a female could create artwork on the same level as any established male artist — also drove me.

Menace: I was in the 7th grade in a local Queens public school. I was always drawing on my desk — anime at the time. One of the kids sitting next to me said I’d be good at graffiti. He introduced me to graffiti, encouraged me and invited me to join his crew, BTC. That was the beginning. I was 12 years old.

You’ve both painted in both illegal and in sanctioned places. Which do you prefer?

Illegal. Painting “without permission” is far more validating!

Have you exhibited your work in gallery settings?

The streets are our gallery.

What about the increasing engagement of street artists and graffiti writers with the corporate world? Would you consider such a collaboration?

It depends. No one can dictate to us what can or cannot do.

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

Our job is to bridge it! It’s all about respect.

What is your main source of income?

Painting commissions.

Did you have you a formal art education?

Resa: I did not attend a specialized art college, but at Binghamton, I majored in both Art History and Studio Art. I will always remain grateful to the late Professor George Dugan for his support and encouragement.

Menace: I studied Graphic Design in college, but I never graduated.

How does your family feel about your passion for art?

Resa: My mom initially fostered it. She enrolled me in art classes when I was eight years old. But then when I wanted to go to an art college, her response was, “You’re too smart to be an artist.” And so she encouraged me to go into the art business. But after interning at Christy’s and working for a collector, I came to understand that the art market is driven by billionaires. I know now that I want to focus on creating my own art and not marketing other artists to the richest 1 per cent. And at this point, my mom understands and respects what I’m doing.

Menace: They intensely disliked my passion for graffiti. I was often getting into graffiti-related trouble in school, and any time my parents saw me writing graffiti, they’d scream at me.  They couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t just “draw something pretty.” My father and I fought just about every day. But my parents have since come to accept me. It helped that in honor of our mothers we painted a mural featuring a tiger mom embracing her cub for the Boogie Down event at the Bronx Zoo for Mothers Day, 2018.

When you paint in public spaces, do you work with a sketch-in-hand or just let it flow?

We generally work with Photoshop mock-ups.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece? 

Generally, we are.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

100 %.

Have you any other interests or passions?

Resa: Not many.

Menace: Video games.

Are there any particular cultures that have inspired your aesthetic?

Hip-hop and New York flavor, in general.

Who are some of your favorite artists? Artists who have inspired you?

Resa: There are so many – BK Foxx, Royyal Dog, El Mac, Meres, Jerms, Topaz, Seen, Skeme

Menace:Reach Eight, Glossblack, Revok, Saber, MSK

How has your work evolved in recent years?

It’s gotten much better. While touring the country, we felt we had to prove something at each stop!

In your cross-country venture — #paintloveacrossamerica — you hit several key cities from Philly to LA painting a range of spectacular murals — some with permission and others without. Does any particular memory stand out?

When we had reached LA, we asked an established street art organization to help us find a legal wall. When assistance didn’t come our way, we found — on our own — one of the largest walls in the heart of the LA  arts district. When the cops rolled up, we didn’t know what to expect, but they expressed appreciation for our work. And when the owner came by, we convinced him that we are in the process of beautifying his property. The final mural — one of our favorite ones — is a visual representation of our collective prayers.

No doubt that what hat you painted was a gift  — however ephemeral — to the city!  What’s ahead?

More painting, of course! And our ultimate goal is to create a community center that serves as a base for us to teach painting and mural-making skills to others.

That sounds wonderful! And thanks for sharing your talents and visions with so many of us.

Images:

1 “Madonna Menace” in Bushwick, JMZ Walls

2 Close-up of Resa and Menace captured at work in Bushwick, JMZ Walls

3 “What a Wonderful World,” portrait of Louis Armstrong, in Esst Harlem, GrandScale Mural Project

4 “When the whole world is silent/Even one voice becomes powerful,” portrait of Malala in Bushwick

5 “Believe in the Reality of Your Dreams,” in Bushwick

6 “Real Eyes Realize Real Lies,” portrait of Tupac in Wynwood

7 “Protect,” Unsanctioned mural in LA’s arts district

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits: 1-3 Lois Stavsky; 4 & 5 Ana Candelaria; 6 & 7 Courtesy of  Menace and Resa

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Brimming always with color, craft and attitude, the walls that surface at Hackensack’s Union Street Park — under the curatorial direction of Darrius-Jabbar Sollas — are a graffiti lover’s heaven. The mural featured above was painted by the hugely talented Sade TCM. Several more images captured last week follow:

The legendary Part One

Bronx-based Sienide

Graffiti master Soze 527

The prolific Wore One

Brooklyn-based Johnny Samp

And fellow Brooklynite Fargo

Wide view — as dusk approaches

Located at 97 Union Street in Hackensack, NJ, Union Street Park is a 30 minute drive from NYC.

Photos by Dani Reyes Mozeson

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