recycled art


UK-based artist My Dog Sighs hits New York City this week with the London Ibiza Collective. Presented by Imagination in Space, the exhibit opens tomorrow, October 6th, and runs until the 16th at S Artspace Gallery, 345 Broome Street, in Lower Manhattan. What follows is an interview with the widely-acclaimed artist who has come to New York for the first time:

When did you begin hitting the streets? 

I’ve been leaving some sort of mark on the streets for about 15 years now.  I’d tried the gallery route a few years before and I failed.  It was so elitist. I began to realize that what you saw on gallery walls was dictated by curators. Not representative of the artists out there. I tried painting what I thought galleries would like, and that was a disaster. Watered down drivel.

So was it the democratic nature of street art that appealed to you?

Yes!  Having stumbled across some early street art — and then Wooster Collective — I loved the way street art engaged a truly democratic audience. The interaction it offered… It had such aesthetic too, so often working with the beauty of  urban decay. I started taking a piece of my work out with me on the way to catching the train to work on a Friday. I would find a nice quiet spot and leave it there for someone to spot and possibly take home. It was liberating.  I got excited as I walked away from the piece.


What were some of your thoughts at the time?

A million questions ran through my head.  Who would see it?  What would they think?  Would they take it?  Would they feel wrong to take it?  Would they feel it’s right to take it? Would they carry the thought around with them all day? Might it encourage them to do the same? Imagine hundreds of little pieces of art hidden around the city! I started posting images online with the tag line Free Art Friday, and I started to get a good response…not just from the street artists and graffiti writers but also from lots of people who just liked the sentiment of the altruistic act.

And so that was the beginning of the Free Art Friday movement! How were you able to afford to do this?

Yes! Little did I know that it would explode across the globe! Working without funds meant I used what I could find. So scraps of cards, junk and crushed food tins became my canvas.


Can you tell us something about your name? It is certainly distinct!

When I started working on the street, there were no street artists. There was just the art. There was no celebrity status like there is today. No one was interested in the artist. Just the art. And I loved that. I was never interested in being recognised for producing the work. I just liked the fact it was going to be seen. It was going to force people to question their everyday existence. It was going to confuse them and allow them to just break the monotony of the daily grind. With that in mind, I didn’t really want a ‘name’. It wasn’t necessary. I just wanted something easy to remember and that might add a layer of confusion to the viewer. The phrase My dog sighs had been sitting in my head for decades after seeing it scrawled on a fence in Biro as a kid. I remember looking at it for just a split second, but its melancholy and surreal nature just embedded itself in my brain. I can’t remember things one minute to the next, but I could not forget this phrase.  When I was trying to think of  something to write next to my work, it seemed to make complete sense to use this random phrase.  I never, for a moment, imagined that 15 years later I’d walk into a bar and get referred to as My Dog or Mr Sighs.


Much of your work focuses on eyes. Can you tell us something about that?

That developed from a can. I’d started painting cans with eyes that were closed, but then I thought I’d try one with eyes open. I nailed the eyes but messed up the nose. Feeling frustrated, I threw the can aside. A week or so later, I walked past a woman in a full burka. Everything was hidden except these beautifully made-up eyes. There was something so alluring and mysterious about seeing just eyes. I was completely captivated. I immediately came home and painted everything black on the cans except for the open eyes. Just like the burka. That can was one of my favorites. I then began to think about the power of seeing so little, and I started to explore the image of a pair of eyes in a narrow aperture. Initially, it was just a window the eyes looked through, but later I began exploring  that letterbox aperture in different formats; tags, drips, paint splashes. And I started to notice how when you look into someone’s eyes, you can see your own silhouette in the reflection. And as I continued to explore this, I began to hide narratives in the reflection. Little hidden stories that may at first be completely overlooked but — once discovered —  could be intriguing! It’s a huge cliche, but the saying The eyes are the window into the soul is often thrown at me. And I suppose I’m exploring that idea. Maybe it’s that I’m not very good at painting noses!


What can we expect to see in your upcoming exhibit — here in NYC?

For this show I went right back to one of the key moments in my life that shaped my interest in art. As a kid at school, art was about viewing traditional English landscapes and endlessly drawing cross sections of fruit and dead house plants in boring art classes. Then one day I saw a Lichtenstein print in a shop window. It blew me away. This bold brash comic book image was something I completely related to. And here it was masquerading as art. Unsettling and infiltrating the art world! Lichtenstein was my gateway into Pop — the shock of the new and the idea that art could be unsettling and naughty and ultimately very powerful. I’ve been exploring the burka stripe behind eyes in different formats and when the opportunity to show in NY came up, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. To pay homage to a hero.

When we were in London last year, we came upon your collab with the Brazilian artist Cranio. We loved it!  Have you collaborated with others? Do any of these collaborations stand out? Would you rather work on your own or collaborate with other artists?

Oh yeah. I love a good colab. It really gets you thinking outside the box. When you rock up to a wall on your own, you have a good idea about what the end result will be. But working with someone else is like cooking. When it works well, the sum of the two parts can be more than the ingredients. Among the artists I’ve collaborated with are: Snub23, Farkfk and Julian Kimmings. But I think my favorite was with Toasters in Bethnal Green last year. I was painting with a true hero, and the whole piece just seemed to work so well. We both had really in-tune ideas about what we wanted to achieve and it all just flowed so well.


For the past several years, your works have also made their way into galleries and art fairs across the globe.  How do you feel about that – the move of street art into galleries? And of your work, in particular, in this setting? 

I always feel like I’m juggling with hot coals a little with this question. Street art is such a pure art form. Maybe not quite as pure as graffiti but up there. It is so democratic. Art by anyone for everyone. It offers so much but asks for so little. And to do it makes my heart soar. But by its nature, it does not pay your rent or feed your kids. For a good while, I had a day job and kept art and money completely separate. But this drastically limited how much time I had to do it. After ten years of putting work out on the street I began to be approached by people to buy my work. Initially this funded the purchasing of new art resources, but eventually I began to see it as an opportunity to paint and create more. A few years ago I found myself in a position where I could paint full time. All day everyday. To get paid for something you adore doing…for something that makes your heart sing is an incredible thing. My work, both for the gallery and the street, has developed and evolved into so much more with all the time I’ve been able to dedicate to it. Showing in galleries across the globe gives me opportunities to paint and leave free art across the globe. In that way it’s the perfect symbiotic relationship.


Your work exudes a social and political consciousness. Have you any thoughts about the increasing link between corporations and street artists? Have you done any corporate work? Would you consider doing so?

I have a social and political conscience, and I have a family to support. There is always a balance. I have been approached, but — as yet —  haven’t worked on any corporate projects. I can completely understand, though, why artists do choose to work with corporations. They have rent to pay, and I’d never judge anyone for doing so.

How has your work evolved since you first started sharing it with others in public spaces?

For over ten years nothing I painted was ever over a few feet in diameter; it was often only an inch or two. Then ‘muralism’ seemed to arrive in full force and all of a sudden my contemporaries were painting huge walls. And it’s getting bigger and bigger: 16-18 story buildings. And part of what I now do is painting murals around the globe. But that to me is a different form of  street art. Many of today’s mural artists have never run around the streets at night, working at speed, considering placement or finding ways to convey a message in creative shorthand. Look at Anthony Lister. With just few quick paint splashes, a thousand pages of prose appears on a street corner. Sublime! People often comment about how quickly I work. It’s about finding the simplest way to convey the message.  Huge murals  have their place, but we mustn’t forget that there’s also something special about discovering a tiny paste-up or hidden piece that you might stumble across or completely miss if you’re not looking carefully.


Absolutely!  What brings you to New York? 

It’s New York! Do I really need to explain? It’s the draw of that energy that NYC exudes. It’s the history of public mark making. It’s the melting pot of creativity. How can I not want part of my creative journey to take place in New York?

What’s ahead?

I’m not a great planner. Once the show is over and the downer of leaving NYC is over, I’ll wake up, go to the studio and find something that I can paint. If I’m lucky, the piece will come to life, and I’ll find a way of sharing it with the world.

Good luck with it all! And welcome to NYC!

Interview by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits 1, 2, 4 & 7 courtesy of the artist; 3 & 5 Lois Stavsky & 6 Tara Murray



A renovated industrial complex that how houses some of Lisbon’s coolest shops, design firms and restaurants, the FX Factory is also home to an eclectic collection of first-rate street art. Pictured above is a bee fashioned by Bordalo II from discarded objects. Bordalo II has the following to say about his work: …I belong to a generation that is extremely consumerist, materialist and greedy. With the production of things at its highest, the production of “waste” and unused objects is also at its highest. “Waste” is quoted because of its abstract definition: “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”.  I create, recreate, assemble and develop ideas with end-of-life material and try to relate it to sustainability, ecological and social awareness.

Here are several other artworks I saw last week while visiting the FX Factory:

Miguel RAM


French artists Noty & Aroz


Mário Belém, close-up from huge mural


Mariana Dias Coutinho, close-up


MaisMenos, one of his “streetments”


Photos by Lois Stavsky



Working with a motley range of discarded objects, Yonkers-based interdisciplinary artist Michael Cuomo repurposes them into masks that he calls Heads of State. Exhibited in both outdoor and indoor spaces, his unique sculpture assemblages provoke and entertain. This past week, some of his newest smaller masks made their way onto the Yonkers Waterfront.





Installation in Progress


A master of neo-primitive folk art in all media, Michael Cuomo recently released a coloring book with his original soulfakes drawings. You can purchase it here.


Photos by Richie DiFrisco



Since 2011, over 10 million Syrians have been uprooted from their homes. Another Day Losta mixed-media installation by Syrian UK-based artist Issam Kourbaj, offers a powerful look into the crisis crippling his homeland.


Inspired by the aerial imagery of the refugee camps in the Jordanian desert, the artist fashioned his installation — reflecting on the lives of refugees living in tents — from waste materials, such as medicine packaging and discarded books.


Each day of the installation, another match is lit and then blown out to mark one more day of Syria’s devastation.

Issam- Kourbaj-matches-installation

U.S. residents visiting the site are invited to compose and electronically submit a letter to their elected representatives encouraging them to support increasing the number of Syrian refugees admitted to the U.S.


On the grounds of Trinity Church — at the intersection of Broadway and Wall Street in Lower Manhattan — Another Day Lost can be viewed through January 5th.

Note: This post was written in collaboration with Kristin L. Wolfe.

Photo credits: 1, 3 & 4 Dani Reyes Mozeson; 2 & 5 Kristin L. Wolfe

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Brooklyn-based Sara Erenthal has shared her distinct drawings, public art, sculptures, and mixed media artworks with us New Yorkers for the past several years in both galleries and on the streets. After viewing her current outdoor installation adjacent to FiveMyles, I had the opportunity speak with her:

"Sara Eremthal installation"

I love your installation here in Crown Heights adjacent to FiveMyles. When did you first begin to share your talents in public spaces?

About four years ago – soon after I returned to NYC from backpacking in India – I drew 100 small faces with a Sharpie in a range of places from phone booths to subways.  It was quite secretive! And, luckily, I was never arrested. These days I can’t take those risks, and I only paint outside on found objects – like abandoned mattresses, castoff furniture, useless appliances and discarded canvases.

Why the streets?

I’ve always loved street art, and I love sharing with others. When I paint on found objects and leave them on the streets, I give people the chance to pick up a free gift. Art should be accessible to the public, and art galleries can be intimidating.


When did you first begin drawing?

I’ve been drawing all my life, and I’ve always loved art. But growing up in an ultra-Orthodox family, I wasn’t exposed to art outside of a few landscapes and portraits of Hasidic rabbis. I never went to museums or galleries. I do remember, though, seeing art that I loved while I was riding the subways as a child!

When were you first exposed to contemporary art – other than what was “permissible” and what you saw on the subway trains?

I was 17, and I had just broken away from my community. A young Israeli artist at the time introduced me to modern African drawings. That was the beginning!


How might your strict religious upbringing have influenced your artwork?

Art was my way of releasing myself from all the constraints that had been imposed upon me.  Through art, I was able to let go of the negativity I’d experienced as a child. Creating art was part of my healing process.

Your artwork has a distinct “outsider” aesthetic. Have you ever studied art in a formal setting?



You are obviously fond of creating portraits. Who are these people who surface in your drawings?

Many are me – variations of myself at different stages in my life. They’re self-conscious representations of my subconscious. Others are people I encounter in my everyday life or people from my past who remain with me.

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

Yes – but I’m frustrated that I often lack the time, space and materials to do a fraction of what I’d like to do.


Can you elaborate a bit on some of the challenges you face as an artist?

Yes. Working to meet basic expenses consumes far too much energy and time. I would like to be able to create when I’m inspired. Our society needs to do more to support artists. Artists are undervalued. Most people don’t take artists seriously enough. They tend to perceive what we do as frivolous or self-indulgent. Living one’s life as an artist is not a choice; nor is it an indulgence.  And the public needs to understand that.

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

To share beauty and inspire others, while evoking conversation.


What’s ahead?

I would like to continue to create, heal and share. I would also love to exhibit more works in public spaces and in galleries. And I would like to gain more recognition as an artist.

Note: Sara’s installation, Made On a Borrowed iPad — curated by gallery director Hanne Tierney for the Interlude Project — will remain on view through December adjacent to FiveMyles, 558 St Johns Place in Crown Heights.

The interview was conducted and edited by Lois StavskyPhotos: 1  Anthony Disparte; 2 – 4 courtesy of Sara Erenthal; 5 & 6 Lois Stavsky


stikman-maybe he always looks the same

Featured in Woodward Gallery’s current exhibit Potentia Triumalong with works by Thomas Buildmore and Terence Netter, are over two dozen variations of our beloved stikman.  Representing an extraordinary range of imaginative styles and genres fashioned from sundry materials — many recycled — the artworks remain on display through December 22.

 One of many on paper, Mixed media 


Collage on paper series, with Terence Netter on left and Thomas Buildmore on right rear


Small Concrete Painting, Mixed media


Bird Garden Shelter, Mixed media


Stiks, Stone, Metal, Mixed media


A larger segment of the huge installation in the rear room


Woodward Gallery is located at 133 Eldridge Street between Broome and Delancey Streets. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday: 11:00 am – 6:00 pm; Sunday: 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm and by appointment.

First image: Maybe He Always Looks the Same. but It’s Us that See Him Differently, Close-up, Mixed media

Photo credits: 1-6 Dani Reyes Mozeson; 7 John Woodward

Note: Check here for more of stikman now on view at Woodward Gallery — as captured by Kendall Whitehouse.


On view at the Judith Charles Gallery though tomorrow — Sunday — is a selection of new works, along with salvaged ones, by many of the artists who had participated in last year’s landmark 21st Precinct Exhibit. Here is a sampling:

Alice Mizrachi


Ghost and Giz, fragment salvaged from last year’s installation


Chris Soria and Misha Tyutyunik




Lorenzo Masnah. fragment


Ben Angotti. close-up


Bad Pedestrian


N Carlos J


Presented by Outlaw Arts, the exhibit remains on view 1-9pm today, Saturday, and tomorrow.

Photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky 


We love the way discarded and found objects — or fragments of them – are transformed into public art.  Here’s a small sampling:

RAE BK in Manhattan


Jim Power aka the Mosaic Man captured at work in the East Village


Fragment from a pole fashioned by Jim Power


Michael Cuomo in the Bronx


Unidentified artist on the Lower East Side


Photos: 1, 3-5 Lois Stavsky; 2 Dani Reyes Mozeson

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Huge fans of Michael Cuomo‘s street and subway interventions, we were delighted to visit his studio as he was getting ready for YOHO Artists Open Studio, in addition to a WallWorks NY pop-up show and a solo exhibit at Art Cafe in Brooklyn. Here’s a sampling of what we saw:

Lucky, fashioned from found objects


Big Mouth, fashioned from found objects




The Tempest




Note: Michael Cuomo’s studio is located at 578 Nepperhan Ave., Suite 505; Wall Works NY’s pop-up show — featuring a wondrous array of artists including Nick Walker, Tats Cru and Crash — opens tonight and continues through the weekend at 28 Wells Street, 2nd floor. And Michael’s solo exhibit at Art Cafe opens May 6 from 6-9 at 886 Pacific Street in Brooklyn.


Photo credits: 1, 3-5 Lois Stavsky; 2. City-As-School intern Diana Davidova; YoHo Open Studio graphic designed by John Wujcik

You can check out a detailed schedule of what’s happening this weekend in Yonkers — including live painting by Crash, Fumero and Damien Mitchell — here.


RAE BK in Africa

Brooklyn-based RAE — whose folksy sculptures, stickers, paste-ups and paintings on NYC streets always delight us — recently returned from Ethiopia.  And we had some questions for him:

What took you to Ethiopia?

I had connected with the non-profit organization H2 Empower Inc that had recently completed construction of the first community library in the town of Hosanna.

"RAE in Ethiopia"

What was your role there?

I worked with kids building sculptures out of found objects and painting the walls outside.

"RAE street art"

Those of us who follow you on Instagram had the opportunity to witness an exhibit, as well – with goats in attendance!

Yes, we staged an exhibit in the living room of the home of a local family we met in town.

"RAE in Ethiopia"

How did it all culminate?

We successfully raised funds to furnish an empty, unused wing of the Alemu Woldehanna Community Library with tables, chairs and a computer station.  That financial goal has been met, and the furniture making will soon be in production.

" RAE street art in Ethiopia"

Who will be involved in the next step?

The students at the nearby School For The Deaf in Hosanna, Ethiopia will be making the furniture.

"RAE stickers in Ethiopia"

It all sounds great! Welcome home!

Photos courtesy of the artist

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