Speaking with Sienide

August 13, 2014


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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


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"

Jason Coatney in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

"Jason Coatney"

Never in Bushwick


El Sol 25 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

"El Sol25"

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


Elbow-Toe in Red Hook, Brooklyn


Sien on Bronx Rooftop


Bradley Theodore in downtown Manhattan

"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


Last Monday – Memorial Day – SinXero, Sien, Fumero and Joe Conzo brought their vision to a new legal wall in the Bronx. Inspired by SinXero’s memories of growing up on 181st Street and Prospect Avenue, the collaborative mural pays homage to the roots of graffiti and hip-hop.


Located at 1401 Ferris Place, this mural is the first of four legal Bronx walls by the TAG Team — in collaboration with such legendary documentarians as Joe Conzo, Ricky Flores and Henry Chalfant. Sponsored by All City Paint, the murals are intended as a tribute to those who played a significant role in the development of the borough’s distinct culture that continues to impact the world. These walls also represent, SinXero reports, an effort to bring a new form of street art, grafstract— with its melding of styles — to the birthplace of it all.  Here are a few more images:

Sinxero pastes up his iconic “Ode to the Streets” image. Photo by Trevon Blondet.


Close-up of SinXero image with Sien to the right. Photo by Tara Murray.

SinXero and Sien

Sien at work. Photo by Trevon Blondet.


SinXero and Fumero in front of completed mural. Photo by Trevon Blondet.

Sinxero and Fumero

Joe Conzo with image based on his photo of Bronx hip-hop legends, the Cold Crush BrothersPhoto by Trevon Blondet.

Joe Conzo

Close-up of Cold Crush Brothers. Photo by Lois Stavsky.

Joe Conzo and SinXero

Westchester Square Plumbing Supply Co., Inc  has provided TAG with multiple legal walls for this project.

All photos by Trevor Blondet, courtesy of SinXero — except for SinXero and Sien close-up by Tara Murray and final close-up by Lois Stavsky.


Fumero street art

The new Nohble in Passaic, New Jersey sports not only cool urban apparel and footwear, but also the most vibrant mural in the county.  Here are a few more images recently captured from its exterior wall that was transformed last month from bleak concrete into a vibrant mural.





Sen2, in progress


Fumero and student artists

Fumero with students

The young artists bristled with pride as they spoke about sharing their talents in a public space.

Anthony Ojeda

Anthony Ojeda

Alexandra Ramos

Alexandra Ramos

Christine Noh, Nohble‘s owner, is delighted with the mural and the “amazing kids” who worked on it, alongside the established artists. She promises that this wall is the first in a series.

Photos by Tara Murray & Lois Stavsky

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This is the sixth in a series of posts of images of girls — and women — who grace New York City’s public spaces:

Los Angeles native Tristan Eaton in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

"Tristan Eaton street art"

 Tokyo native Lady Aiko in Washington Heights, Manhattan

"Lady Aiko"

Brooklyn-based Gilf! at Bushwick Five Points

"Gilf! street art"

The legendary London-based Inkie at Bushwick Five Points

 Mexico City-based artist Paola Beck at Bushwick Five Points

"Paola Beck art"

Colombia native Lorenzo Masnah in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

"Lorenzo Masnah street art"

 Bronx-based artist Sien in Red Hook, Brooklyn

The wonderfully talented ND’A and OverUnder in the East Village

"ND'A and OverUnder street art"

Photos of Tristan Eaton, Gilf!, Paola Beck & Sien by Lois Stavsky; Lady Aiko, Lorenzo Masnah and OverUnder & ND’A by Lenny Collado; Inkie by Tara Murray



"5Pointz street art & graffiti in NYC"

5Pointz, New York City’s aerosol art Mecca, officially launched its tenth season this past Saturday.  Veteran writers, newbies, break-dancers, graff lovers, hip-hop aficionados and tourists, along with curious passersby, all came together in celebration. Here are some scenes:

Native New Yorker Demer has been an active graffiti writer since the early 80’s, beginning with NYC subway trains. These days his work is featured worldwide in print, in exhibits, on movie screens and on walls. Early Saturday he was busy at 5Pointz.

"Graff writer Demer ar 5Pointz NYC"

Active on the streets of the Bronx and beyond, aerosol art master Sien aka Sien Ide collaborated with Bronx native and acclaimed artist Eric Orr, one of the first writers to incorporate symbols into graffiti and to collaborate with Keith Haring.

"Sien and Eric Orr at 5Pointz"

Break-dancers shared their talents, as well.

A number of  long-term walls, including those by the Madrid-based Ego Crew and Paris’s 2rode, also greeted visitors.

"Ego Crew @ 5Pointz"

"2rode graffiti mural at 5Pointz"

And, of course, there were new pieces by Jonathan “Meres” Cohen — under whose direction, relentless commitment and curatorial vision 5Pointz has attained international acclaim.

"Meres at 5Pointz"

Although the threat of closure looms, that didn’t seem to be on anyone’s mind on Saturday.

Photos by Lenny Collado and Dani Mozeson