wheatpaste

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

Born in Rochester, New York and currently based in Queens, City Kitty makes his presence wherever he happens to be. And each piece that he creates is distinctly intriguing. 

When did you first discover your love for art?

I’ve always loved art, and it’s always been a part of my life. I come from a very artistic family. My grandparents were both painters. They met when they were students at Pratt. My mother was a singer. I, myself, was a musician for many years, and my brother is a musician. It’s just something that has always been encouraged.

Do you have a formal art education?

Yes. My undergraduate degree is in Art Education from Nazareth College in Rochester. I worked as a substitute teacher for a bit, but I did not end up pursuing teaching as a career. I then went back to school and earned an MFA in Painting from the University of Albany, where I taught undergraduate courses in drawing for two years. I have an entirely different career in the Fine Arts. That work looks nothing like my street art.

On the streets we identify you with your City Kitty character. When was your City Kitty character born? And how did you come up with its design?

I moved to NYC in January 2010. And two months later, I met a couple of friends who were working at the Fountain Art Fair. They ran a collective that I ended up joining, and I started meeting more and more street artists. I used to do graffiti as a kid, and I saw that if I were to do street art, I’d have to make up a character.

So I thought, “All right I’ll come up with a character!” I grew up in a house with five cats. And when I lived in Bushwick, there were two gangs of cats on either side of the adjacent factory, and they were always having kittens.

Do you remember your first City Kitty piece?

Yes, the first thing I did was make a silkscreen. The style of work that I do now is similar to what I did back when I was in a band. When I moved down here, I was still making band posters. But since hanging posters here is illegal, I decided that if I’m going to get into trouble, it might as well be for my own work! That’s when I started burning silk screens. I would make all of my work by hand for the posters, but then I would print them out. I would make one cut paper piece, scan it and print multiple copies and put them out. All the other poster artists that I knew and fell in love with were silkscreen artists, so if I’m going to change gears, I’m going to want to start with silkscreen.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

There are poster artists and fine artists. Jeff Soto is kind of a crossover, as are Michael Motorcycle and Tara McPhearson. Jeff is a great painter, but he also does murals. Tara designs toys that she shows at Comic Con and she’s, also, represented by galleries. I like that balance. I do a lot of posters between working on fine art paintings.

I have seen some of your sketches on MTA service announcement posters on the New York City subway platforms.

Yes! I usually grab the posters on my way to work. I’ll draw them on my lunch break, and I’ll put them up on the way back home. And they get around — as I work in different parts of the city from the Lower East Side to Harlem. And when I have to get to New Jersey, I travel through Midtown.

When did you start putting up these MTA service announcement sketches? And why?

About a year and a half ago, I put up 113 of them. Sometimes they’re up for a few days, and other times they stay up for as long as a month. After 10 years of doing street art, I felt like I was making work for the same audience. On the subways I can reach a different audience and, perhaps, make some people smile. And I don’t sign my subway sketches. I like that feeling. And since I’ve begun doing this, I’ve only been yelled at by a couple of transit workers.

Have you ever done a wall?

Yes, I have done several. My first wall was in Ithaca at a bar where I used to play with my old band.

What about collaborations? I’ve seen your collaboration with Turtle Caps. Do any others stand out?

I‘ve collaborated with a lot of people. For years, I did a lot of work together with my street art friend Bludog. I also collaborated with Grey Egg from New Jersey, and I worked with some people from Europe.

What gives you the biggest thrill in this street art scene?

Traveling to new cities and putting my work up in them — especially since it’s such a worldwide thing. It’s a global community. I love seeing what other people are doing and I love contributing to it.

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

I’m satisfied when I finish, and then a few days later, I hate it!

How has it evolved over the years?

I use more colors and my characters have evolved over time.

Running into your pieces always makes me feel happy! And I’m looking forward to seeing more of them…especially on my way to work! What’s ahead?

I’m now working on the wall at Second Avenue and Houston. A solo exhibition of my hand-embellished MTA posters will open this Friday evening from 6-10 pm and continue through Saturday, 12-8 PM, at the Living Gallery Outpost, 246 East 4th Street.

Collaborations:

3. City Kitty with London-based  Neon Savage

5. City Kitty with Queens-based Turtle Caps

6. City Kitty with Toronto-based Urban Ninja

Interview conducted by Ana Candelaria and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits: 1 Lois Stavsky 2-7 Ana Candelaria

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

This past Saturday, I joined a group of 21 Shooters Street Art hunters, scouring the streets of SoHo and Tribeca. On a mission, organized by Shooters Street Art founder Omar Lopez aka Omar Victorious, we competed to be the first to locate 17 wheatpastes featuring works by one of my favorite street artists, Dee Dee Was Here. After our two-hour search had ended, and the winner, John Domine, was presented with an exclusive original print, Dee Dee, who remained undisclosed throughout the hunt, offered me her feedback:

How do you feel about the concept behind the Shooters Street Art Scavenger Hunt?

I love the concept. I love walking in the city myself, just wandering. It reminds me of back when I came upon art that I loved…like Bäst  and Aiko. It was a great surprise to run into one. The idea of bringing a group of people together for a fun day in October outside to find art was too good to pass up!

This hunt seemed to motivate you to put up even more work on the streets.

Honestly, it only motivated me more THIS week. I did look around SoHo with a new eye to put a few more out, as I wanted it to be really fun for everyone. Not everything was new. I brought some old favorites out, since I know that some people may be new to me and not know them. It was a nice overview of pieces from the past few years.

What inspires your works?

All of mine are inspired differently. Each has a story and a mood I am trying to convey. A lot starts with songs; then a story begins from there.

How does it feel to have so many people hunting for you?

It’s a little overwhelming, really! I am very lucky. I am told over and over how many people deeply connect with my work  — on a very personal level. One gallery owner once told me, “Your fans don’t love you; they LOVE you!” I feel that, and I feel very connected to them. I make my art for me. It’s the art that I want to see, so having everyone excitedly coming to find it is quite amazing. The fact that it makes them happy and they get to enjoy the day — while making new friends — is just icing on a pretty great cake.

What was it like to participate anonymously in this Shooters Street Art Scavenger Hunt?

I also got to enjoy it out there myself — as a few people ran right by me to find their next location. It’s Halloween, and I get to be a real-live ghost. What could be more fun that that?

Thank you so much, Dee Dee. We loved it. I greatly appreciate your feedback and kindness. I can’t get over how much fun I had on this hunt. It was filled to the brim with excitement. 

My pleasure. I wanted to do something fun for Halloween, and we had such a beautiful day for it. So many people told me what a great time they had…we may have to do it again sometime.

Interview and photos by Ana Candelaria

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I first met and interviewed Lily Luciole back in 2014 when she came to NYC to share her distinct vision on our streets . Active throughout the globe, but particularly in Montreal and Paris, Lily fashions alluring mixed media images — largely inspired by her African heritage and her quest to reclaim her identity. The artist was back here this past month for a brief visit, and we had a chance to catch up a bit.

The last time we met up you were living in Montreal. Where are you based these days?

I now consider Paris my home.

What motivated you to return to Paris?

My mother is not in good health. She needs my support, and I want to look after her. I, also, feel that seeing new art in a different setting inspires me and stimulates my creativity.

How has your vision changed or evolved within the past few years?

While living in Montreal, my main focus had been street art. But my most recent project, Sortir Les Femmes De L’Ombre (Taking Women Out of the Shadows), engages women in a range of artistic ventures from the visual arts to dance to poetry. Ten women are currently involved, and plans are now underway for a performance and discussion as to the particular challenges faced by Muslim women in the arts.

How would you, then, define the mission of Sortir Les Femmes De L’Ombre?

Its mission is to give underrepresented women opportunities to share their talent, as well as to discover other talented women out there.

What about your own art? In what ways may that have evolved?

My technique is more complex and time-consuming, as I incorporate more embroidery. But it always centers on the representation of women.

What’s ahead?

Raising more funds to further develop Sortir Les Femmes De L’Ombre and working on my own project. I’m, also, interested in becoming involved in exhibitions and events in the northern French city, Lille.

It sounds great. Be sure to keep us posted! 

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits:  1-3, Ana Candelaria; 4  Hervé Sarrazin

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

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Baston714 has been making his mark on our streets these past few years with his uniquely intriguing wheatpastes, paste-ups and stickers. By chance, I came upon him while he was painting a mural outside the Second Avenue subway station — one of our favorite street art spots. Soon afterwards, I had the opportunity to interview him:

When did you first discover your love for art?

Both my parents were artists and Pratt graduates. My father was a furniture designer and my mom a shoe designer. So art was always a part of my life. I was always creative and I was always drawing, but I majored in television broadcasting and worked largely in network news as an editor.

Do any early art-related memories stand out? Particularly those that may involve your parents?

One particular memory stands out. When I was five years old, after seeing the movie A Red Balloon, I started drawing red balloons all over my walls at home. My mother didn’t appreciate my efforts and made me wash them all off.  I remember, also, my father drawing characters and having me identify them. I’d guess who each one was. My father might have been a fantastic fine artist, but because he had a family to take care of, he never pursued that venue.

What motivated you to hit the streets with your distinct vision?

I didn’t expect to. I had no plans of being a street artist. But once I began to photograph street art, I was hooked. I started creating little drawings and sending them out to the street artists I’d met to get some feedback. The feedback was positive – and, like the street artists I’d befriended, I, too, wanted to share them in a public space. I started putting up stickers about three years ago.

Are there any street artists out there who particularly inspired you when you began to get your work up in public spaces?

Among those who inspired me were: Who is Dirk?, Fumero, Denton Borrows, Phetus 88. and Jeff Henriquez.. I started shooting videos with Who is Dirk?, at night. I loved the idea of being in Chinatown at 3 AM in the morning!

What about your name? How did you come up with Baston714 ?

I lived in the jungle for over five years in Iquitos, Peru — one of the most isolated cities in the world.  One of the Shamans — healers — gave me the nickname Baston which means walking stick in Spanish. And I always liked the number combination 714!

Can you tell us something about your now-iconic face?

The face was influenced by other artists and the experiences I had with Shamans while living in the jungle. Painting comes from a very personal space. I had an idea and started fooling around. I like my colors to pop.

Are you generally satisfied with your artwork?

I hate my work until I’m about midway through creating it. About 56% in, I say to myself, “There’s something here.” And then the work starts to talk to me, “Do this! Put something here.” It comes to life.

I first met you while you were working on a wall on Houston Street and 2nd Avenue. Was this your first mural?

No, I’ve painted about five or six walls. Kon Air  gave me my first wall in Barcelona. It took me six hours to finish painting it. Fumero, gave me a wall at Art Basel 2018. Spray painting is extremely challenging. I like the challenge, and I would like to paint more walls.

Have you collaborated with any other artists?

Yes, I’ve collaborated with Zimad on stickers. I have also worked with Sinclair the VandalWho is Dirk? and Doodlehedz.

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

Among those I’d like to collaborate with are: Ratanic, Antennae and Fluidtoons.

Whats ahead?

More wheatpastes and I’d like to work on more walls.

Interview conducted by Ana Candelaria and edited for clarity and brevity by Ana and Lois.

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

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Best-known for his interactive performance art and visual art that have been featured in a range of galleries, art fairs and museums, Miami-based artist David Rohn has recently taken his vision to the streets. In his new series, Street Peeps, he focuses on raising awareness of the issue of homelessness. While in Miami, I had the opportunity to speak to him:

When did you begin this project– with its focus on wheatpasting images of  yourself in various disguises representing street peeps?

I started three months ago.

Had you ever gotten up on the streets before you began working on this project?

Back in the 90’s, I did a series of boys’ heads based on an image that I had seen. I got them up in Miami – mostly on lampposts – Downtown and on the beach. One even made it into the bathroom of the Perez Art Musem, back when it was the Miami Art Museum. I painted the heads in different colors mixing guache paint with wallpaper paste.

What inspired you to do so back then?

I’d seen graffiti and wheatpastes up in NY, and I wanted to be out there.

What spurred you to hit the streets this time around? 

Between 2008 and 2014, I was represented by a gallery in Miami. After that ended, I wanted a way to share my vision — and concerns — with others. Things had tapered off. Getting up in the public sphere seemed like the most sensible way to accomplish this.

And why this particular project?

I feel very strongly about homelessness. I’ve seen it explode in recent years. It is appalling! And the income disparity is continually increasing. I’ve been interested in these two issues for awhile.

Each of your portraits is another rendition of you as someone who is homeless!

Yes! I’ve been doing portraits of myself since 2008 as part of my performance art.

Who exactly are these characters you are portraying?

They are inspired by homeless folks and street people I see when I’m out on the streets. The ones who are the casualties of gentrification. This city is changing so rapidly.

And what about the characters with the masks? Who are they?

They represents the power structure. The eilite – those who control our economic assets. The developers who can easily evolve into a monsters.

What about your relationship with the homeless?

For awhile, I was bringing them sleeping bags and cots. But these days, I bring loaves of day-old bread and bottles of water. And socks – white socks and gray socks. They choose which ones they want. These items are what they seem to need and want the most.

And how has this project – getting your portraits out there in public space — impacted you?

It’s been very liberating! It’s fun! And I like the idea of short circuiting the gallery system.

What’s ahead?

Creating and getting up more images suggestive of the homelessness crisis.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky with photos by Lois Stavsky.

Special thanks to Andrew Ringler for introducing me to David.

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