visionary art

Eight walls and three loading docks on the exterior of Yoho Studios have a brand-new look. Described by the artist as New Earth Hieroglyphs, the art brings Michael Cuomo’s distinctly abstract, black and white spiritual aesthetic into the public sphere. Upon viewing it, I had a few questions for Michael:

How did this wonderful opportunity to share your particular aesthetic in a public space come your way?

I was granted permission by Heights Real Estate and Yonkers Arts, an organization that has been promoting and encouraging artistic ventures in the City of Yonkers.

You are a master of many different styles and techniques. How did you decide on this particular composition?

I wanted to share the power of high vibrational frequency that these designs offer. I am honored to be able to present my artwork to the community on a main street, 578-540 Nepperhan Avenue, where thousands pass daily.

How have folks responded to it?

They love it. While I was painting, many stopped by to chat. Others honked their horns from their cars, and gave me a thumbs up! The response has been thoroughly positive.

You work mostly in your studio. What has it been like to change your working environment to an outdoor one?

I love working in both settings. But I love the interaction with others that best happens in public spaces.

How do you feel about the final product?

I’m enthralled!

What’s ahead?

In addition to my studio work, I’d love to find more opportunities to paint outdoors.

How can folks best contact you?

They can drop me an email at michaelcuomoart@gmail.com. Or they can send a direct message to my Instagram account.

Great! And we’re looking forward to seeing more of your work on the streets!

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photos 1, 2 & 3 courtesy of the artist; 4 & 5 Lois Stavsky

Note: An earlier version of this interview — with additional photos by Fawn Phillips — first appeared here.

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We were delighted to recently meet up with the nomadic Ecuadorian artist Lasak, view her artwork — on and off the streets — and find out a bit about her.

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

It was back in 2010 in my hometown, Guayaquil, on the Ecuadorian coastline. I was 21 at the time.

Have you any early graffiti-related memories?

No. I didn’t grow up with graffiti. My hometown, at the time, was very conservative. No one would dare leave a mark on private or public property. There were police everywhere. And when I first started, I’d often get into trouble. Now Guayaquil is much more open, and there is street art everywhere.

Who/what, then, inspired you to get up?

Damián Vásquez aka Disaikner, a friend of mine who’s an amazing designer, illustrator and tattoo artist.

Have you any favorite surface?

I like everything, but I especially like metal doors.

Do you prefer to paint on the streets “with permission?” Or do you prefer doing it illegally?

I like both. I like the thrill of painting illegally, but I also like to be able to take my time, which I can only do on legal walls.

What was the riskiest thing you ever did on the streets?

While I was up on a ladder painting, I saw a man trying to rob a lady. I stopped what I was doing to get down to help her. And the next thing I noticed was a gun pointed at me!

Do you prefer painting alone or with others?

I like both. When I paint with other artists, I get to learn from them and we get to share our knowledge.

Have you exhibited your work?

Yes, throughout Ecuador, and in many other places including Necoche, Iguazu, Sao Paulo , Berlin, Barcelona, Berlin, Indonesia, Hawaii and NYC. But the streets are my main canvas.

How does your family feel about what you are doing?

It took them awhile to understand my lifestyle. My mother was upset, at first, that I didn’t finish university, where I’d been studying architecture.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

I spend about 6-7 hours a day on art. I’d love to devote the entire day to art, but I also work at assorted jobs to earn necessary income.

What are some of your other interests?

I’m interested in working with community-based projects and helping people. That’s my primary interest and mission. My first experience teaching art was to adult cancer patients in Ecuador. It was super amazing! When I help others, I’m also helping myself, because I don’t get depressed. I’m, also, interested in music, especially electronic music. And I love to dive. When I do, I feel like I’m in another world.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Apitatán, Inti, and Lauren YS aka Squid Licker immediately come to mind!

What about cultural influences? What are your principal ones?

My main cultural influences are indigenous and Hindu.

Have you a formal art education?

None. My friends – including all those I’ve met in my travels — have been my teachers.

What are some of the countries you’ve traveled to and painted in?

Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Indonesia, Korea and the US.

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

I only work with a sketch when I’m commissioned to paint a piece. Otherwise I just let it flow.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

I’m happy, but I also feel confused. How does one judge artwork?

What inspires you?

Nature…the ocean…my travels around the world…learning about other cultures and sharing my knowledge with others.

How has your work evolved through the years?

My composition has improved. My work is more balanced and more interesting.

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

It helps me get my work out there to people who otherwise wouldn’t see it , but it takes up too much time.

What do you see as the artist’s role in society?

To offer people an entry to another world.

What’s ahead?

I’d like to move to Hawaii and study art there in a formal setting. I’d, also, like to teach scuba diving, and so I need to earn a certificate that allows me to do that. I’m interested, too, in working with organizations engaged with saving sharks. And, of course, creating more art that engages the community.

Interview conducted by Lois Stavsky with  City-as-School interns Basil Lyons and Alyssa Torres and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits: 1-3, 5, 6 & 8 courtesy of the artist; 4 & 7 Lois Stavsky

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While visiting PS9’s STEAM Mural Project in Prospect Heights last month, I came upon a delightfully playful mural gracing the outside of the school building. STEAM Mural Project curator Jeff Beler told me a bit about the intriguing visionary artist behind it — Cuban native Myztico Campo. I was delighted to, soon afterwards, have the opportunity to interview the Brooklyn-based, self-taught shamanic artist.

When did you first begin to make art?

My earliest memory is of melting crayons on the radiator, so that I could watch the colors drip. When I was about five or six, I started to draw.

What inspired you at the time?

I used to watch my father draw caricatures. I was fascinated.

Are there any other early art-related memories that stand out?

Growing up in Hells Kitchen, I attended Catholic school for twelve years. When I was 7 years old, I drew an image of Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaurs eating nuns. My classmates loved it. But the nuns didn’t; they were horrified. They responded to it by slapping me across my knuckles.

How did your family respond to your early art-making?

Both my parents were encouraging. They loved what I did.

What about your particular visionary aesthetic? When and how did that evolve?

When I was sixteen, I started to explore psychedelics — such as mescaline and peyote — and I began to have visions. I started then to create art that reflected an alternate consciousness. I felt as though I was connecting to the Godhead of infinite love.

Are there any specific cultures that have inspired or influenced your visionary aesthetic?

Among those that have influenced me are indigenous cultures… aboriginal, prehistoric and African.

Are there artists out there who particularly inspire you? Who impact your visionary aesthetic — or whose aesthetic you relate to?

Yes! Among them are: Alex Grey, Amanda Sage, Olga Klimova, Android Jones and Juan Carlos Taminichi

What about other artists? Who are some of your favorite artists?

They include: the visionary artist and poet William Blake; the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch; the Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali and the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.

Do you have a formal art education?

No. I never went to art school.

Your artwork can be amazingly detailed. Approximately how long does it take you to complete a piece?

Anywhere between 40-60 hours.

Are you generally satisfied with your final piece?

There is always room for improvement; I sometimes go back to a “finished” piece and tweak it.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

I’d say somewhere between 5-7 hours a day are devoted to visual art.

How has your art evolved through the years? 

Originally creating art was a hobby; I didn’t take it seriously. But as I grew, I began to see myself as a vessel for the art to express itself. And it became very important to me. I’ve, also,  expanded my range of media to include sculpture, 3-D art and digital art.

Have you shown your work in galleries?

Mostly in alternative venues. My work has been exhibited abroad in England, Spain, Peru, and here in the US in New Orleans and in New York.

You do quite a bit of live painting. What is that like?

I see it as sacred form of communication with the people who are around me.

I discovered your particular aesthetic while visiting the STEAM Mural Project  at PS 9 in Prospect Heights. When did you first paint in a public space?

The first public mural that I painted was in 2005 in East Yorkshire, England.

And since then?

Among the places I’ve painted outdoor murals are North Bergen, New Jersey and Tarapoto, Peru. And last year, I painted New York’s first black light street art at Underhill Walls here in Brooklyn.

What are some of your other interests?

I also produce films, direct music videos, compose and play music and write poetry.

That’s quite impressive! What do you see as the role of the artist in society?

To heal and to raise consciousness. I see myself as a conduit to a higher consciousness.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; photos of Myztico Campo‘s artwork — as seen in his Brooklyn studio/living space — and of his PS 9 mural by Lois Stavsky 

Directed by Myztico Campo, the featured video stars Dakota Day, co-founder and lead vocalist for the psychedelic soul band Brooklyn Bonez, performing Buddy Guy’s “Skin Deep.”

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