Interviews

Presented at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018 and continuing though March 30 is Red Crown Green Parrot, a public art project by Kashi Gallery — conceived and fashioned by Jerusalem-based artist Meydad Eliyahu, a descendant of Malabar Jews, in collaboration with Dubai-based Thoufeek Zakriya, a Muslim who was born and raised in Kochi. I recently had the opportunity to speak to Meydad about this impressive project.

First, can you tell us something about the project’s title — Red Crown Green Parrot? What is its significance?

The title is inspired by the themes of the crown and the parrot which frequently appear in the  cultural expressions  of Malabar’s Jews — such as women’s folksongs, illuminated Jewish marriage contracts and synagogue decorations.The parrot is also a symbol of the storytelling in ancient local literature and culture.

What is the project’s principal mission? 

The presence of the Malabar Jews has almost completely disappeared — not only from Mattancherry’s physical space, but also from its collective memory. The project’s primary missions are to preserve the memory of Malabar Jews and to shed light on the loss of the unique multicultural dialogue that characterized Mattancherry in the past.

How did you go about trying to accomplish this?

Through a public intervention of a series of paintings and calligraphic wall works in Malayalam, English and Hebrew. The project is a walking route through the neighborhood that the Jews once lived in,  It includes a demolished cemetery with only one tomb left in an abandoned synagogue from the 14th century, along with several other hidden sites.

What were some of the challenges you encountered in seeing the project through?

We were uncertain as to how local residents would react to our reawakening a memory of a chapter that had ended 70 years ago. We did not know if and how they would accept it and whether they would want it to play such a prominent role in their present-day visual lives. That was one challenge.  Another challenge was  securing permission to work on the walls that we wished to use. That was something we couldn’t do until we arrived. But Thoufeek and I were determined to overcome any obstacles that came our way.

How have the city’s residents and visitors responded to the project?

Our most generous partners were the local residents. They welcomed us with great warmth and enthusiasm. When we were hesitant to put the first brush stroke on the first wall, they prodded us to start painting. Some helped us choose the right motifs and helped us secure walls; others helped with ladders and assisted with the clean-up. And we feel that we accomplished our mission.

“I’ve been living in Kochi for over 40 years, and this is the first time I’m seeing and learning about the Malabari Jewish sites,” commented one of the local residents.

Note: Created and performed in ‘Jew Town’, the historical Jewish urban area of Mattancherry, Kochi, India, Red Crown Green Parrot was supported by the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture and curated by Tanya Abraham.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; all photos courtesy Meydad Eliyahu

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The following guest post is by Houda Lazrak

While in Vienna, I had the chance to meet and talk with Jakob Kattner, founder of Calle Libre, the impressive mural festival that has been enlivening Vienna’s 6th and 7th district walls since 2014.

How would you describe Calle Libre? And why the Spanish name?

I would describe Calle Libre as a festival of urban aesthetics. My doctoral thesis focused on urban art in South America. I researched it there for 14 months, and this festival is my way to give back to the artists who helped me — who let me live with them and document their lives.

Where in South America did you do your street art research?

Colombia was the first country I visited. Stinkfish became a friend. He introduced me to the local scene, which really paved the way for me to explore further. I then went to Brazil, where I found a unique urban art style whose history is unfamiliar to most people. And, finally, Argentina. There I could feel how the weight of dictatorial history had impacted the street art scene but, also, how artists finally found their freedom.

How has Calle Libre evolved since 2014?

 We have broadened the programing every year. It started with live painting at the Danube Canal, along with an exhibition. We then added workshops at mumok. And the following year, we hosted film screenings, organized performances and presented artist talks. We also started doing annual signed screen print editions in collaboration with Limited Edition Art Prints aka LEAP. Among the artists we work with are Millo, Alfalfa, Inkman, Rodrigo Branco and Stinkfish. And in 2017, we launched guided tours.

What would you say is your main mission?

Intercultural exchange through art. We always include South American and local artists.

Is this your full time job?

I run a creative advertising agency called Warda Network. We produce creative, video and digital content. Actually, the agency does the documentation for Calle Libre, but the festival is its own separate nonprofit entity.

That’s why your online documentation is so great! Can you tell us something about your background?

I studied fine art and cultural theory. I am also a rapper. I’ve always wanted to work with moving images. I directed my own music video and that’s how I met my current partner at Warda Network.

Who is your team? Who helps you produce Calle Libre?

We are a team of seven. My fiancé, Laura, and I are the curators. When we started, it was just the two of us — and we still can’t believe how we managed to create an entire festival! Today, we rely on our team.

How many murals have you produced so far? 

 More than 35 but I am not sure how many are still up.

How have people reacted to Calle Libre?

It has been all positive feedback, especially from people who live near the walls that are painted during the festival. There is always a person from the team at each wall, and we have heard great things. We’ve also had funny incidents.

Such as?

When Mantra painted his 3D butterflies, someone asked us how he was able to put glass over such a big wall. And when Nychos painted a naked woman with a parrot on her shoulder in his signature Jugendstil-inspired style, a woman — whose house window faced the mural — asked why he was drawing her.

Do you focus on specific neighborhoods?

Each year we try to include new districts, but the 6th and 7th are where we have the most walls. It’s also where most of us live. These districts like the impact we’ve had, so we have good relationships with them. We try to pair artists with walls in relevant contexts. For example, the mural by Stinkfish — featuring a father carrying his child — is located on a kindergarten school property.

Have you collaborated with any museums in Vienna aside from mumok.?

The Albertina Museum contacted us about a possible collaboration on a Keith Haring exhibition. When we received the news, it was like we were knighted!

How do you get the funding to produce such a significant festival?

We get public funding from the city. We also received money from the European Union our first year. We apply for project grants, and we collaborate with local partners, based on where the walls are. It’s like playing the lottery! We never know how the next festival will be funded. We work for free and we love what we do, but it’s nice when the city and citizens give back. Every time we walk past the walls, we feel a sense of gratification.

Who are some of your favorite local artists?

Perk Up, Skirl, Frau Isa

What has been your biggest challenge since you first launched Calle Libre?

Convincing building owners to let us paint the walls! That’s definitely the hardest part.

Are there any artists on your wish list?

Inti, Pixel Pancho, Herakut, Os Gemeos. I also want to bring talented artists from South America who are not yet well-known in Europe.

I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next!

Images

1 Stinkfish

2 Kashink

3 Mr Woodland

4 HNRX

Mantra

6 Millo

7 Koz Dos

Interview and images by Houda Lazrak

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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For the past several years, a huge array of  first-rate street artists and graffiti writers have designed dozens of stylish skatedesks to raise funds for Learn and Skate. But just what is Learn and Skate? What is its mission? And what are its goals for 2019? Jean Claude Geraud, its principal founder, has some answers:

Just what is Skate and Learn? 

It is a skateboard association that I created back in 2012 with the help of Richard Schenten. Passionate skaters ourselves, one day we came upon a video featuring skaters practicing skateboarding in Africa’s Ugandan countryside. We were struck at once by its bad state and its obvious lack of materials. We wanted to do something!

What was your goal at the time?

Our initial goal was to develop the practice of skateboarding in disadvantaged places throughout the globe. We wanted to provide opportunities for young people who are curious about the sport to develop their skills. It soon became obvious to us that their passion for skateboarding — and the discipline that it demands — evolved into a passion for living a meaningful, productive life. And so our initial mission evolved!

How would you define your present goals?

We would like to be able to provide new and used skateboarding materials — such as boards, wheels, screws and shoes — to children who need them. We would also like to provide them with skating lessons. We are engaged in raising funds for the construction of skateparks, schools and additional classrooms — where needed. And we want to send school materials — such as books, pens, notebooks — to needy schools every trimester.

How do you go about engaging the communities — parents, teachers, the public, in general? I imagine that is essential to accomplishing your mission.

Yes. Key to our mission is the notion of sharing, and that involves an ongoing dialog with the community. To involve generations beyond those interested in skateboarding, painting workshops are organized to start the dialogue with young and old.

How do you raise money to support your projects?

Since 2014, the association has been producing skateboard exhibitions every year. The skate boards — customized by urban artists recognized throughout the world — are auctioned on the Paddle8 platform, and all the income they generate are used to create our projects. We’ve exhibited in: Toulouse at Agama Gallery; Paris at the Quartier General; Madrid at the Swinton Gallery and at the Urvanity Art Fair; Zurich at the Kolly Gallery; NYC at The Made Hotel; Denver at Crush Walls and last month at Miami Art Basel.

Among your many remarkable accomplishments was the establishment of a skate park in Uganda. What’s ahead? What is your principal goal for 2019?

Our main goal to build a skate park in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, by September of this year. We are also considering constructing school classes, where necessary, in close collaboration with local authorities. And we are working to connect with new donors, patrons, and foundations cause to ensure the sustainability of the project and have the chance to extend it on a global scale.

Good luck with it all! StreetArtNYC is delighted to partner with you in realizing your current project.

Note: You can help support Learn and Skate by purchasing its products here or making a donation by contacting roulepetitougandais@hotmail.fr

All images courtesy Jean Claude Geraud

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Launched over 10 years ago, the Lilac Mural Project has evolved into a Mecca of richly diverse street art and graffiti and one of the Mission District’s main attractions. On her recent visit to San Francisco, travel and street photographer Karin du Maire aka Street Art Nomad had the opportunity to speak to Lisa, who – along with her husband, Randolph Bowes – initiated the impressive project.

What spurred you to launch this project? What was its initial mission?

When we first moved into this neighborhood in 2005, it was quite dangerous. It was plagued by gang violence and drug activity. Living in such a tragic setting was having a negative psychological impact on me. I didn’t feel safe. And when I told my husband that I wanted to move, he suggested that we bring in muralists. He saw art as a way to transform the environment.

How did you react to his suggestion?

I thought it was interesting, but I was quite skeptical!

What won you over?

Once Baltimore native CUBA – a classic graffiti artist with wide experience – and Mark Bodē, whom he introduced us to, started to paint here, everyone was eager to join them. We asked permission from the property owners for other artists to paint, and Lilac Alley began to evolve into a safe place. The problem of unsightly graffiti was also solved. And soon we were asked to curate neighboring alleys.

How did you finance all of this early on?

When we first started, we would pay for the paint, food and transportation for about 30 artists. But as the project grew, it started to become cost prohibitive. When we told the artists that we could no longer afford to pay for their products, they assured us that they were just happy to have a place to paint safely.

Can you tell us something about your gallery, Mission Art 415? When did you launch it and why? 

My background is in interior design and fine art, and I’ve worked in fine art galleries. So when this gallery space became available about three years ago, it seemed like a natural fit. And because San Francisco is so expensive and so many artists are struggling to survive here, the gallery gives them an opportunity to sell their art and earn some income. All that I ask from the artists is a 10% commission, and I’ve established contacts with international collectors. I also get commissioned murals for artists — such as Mark BodēNite Owl and Crayone — from local businesses.

What about this neighborhood? How has it changed since you’ve moved here?

Rents are continually increasing, and older businesses are being run out. And there’s been increasing tensions between the members of the long-time Latino community and the newer residents.

Do you have the same issue that we are are having in NYC – particularly in Bushwick – where ad agencies are replacing murals with ads by offering money to local businesses for use of their walls?

No! I have not had that happen. I actually approach businesses. When I see their buildings or storefronts tagged, I remind the owners that they can get fined for that, and I offer to connect them with great muralists who can get their signage up on their buildings – graffiti style.

What are some of the challenges you face in curating both a gallery and a mural project that has grown to cover 14 blocks?

The huge costs of running a business, along with the local politics, are the main challenges. I love what I do, but I am always working!

Images:

1 Mark Bode

2 Crayone

3 Twick ICP

4  Mission Art 415 Gallery

5 Nite Owl

Interview conducted by Karin du Maire and edited and abridged by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits: 1, 4 & 5 Karin du Maire; 2 & 3 courtesy the Lilac Mural Project

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If you haven’t yet had your portrait drawn with one line in under one minute by the wonderfully passionate, nomadic Brooklyn-based 0H10 M1ke, tomorrow is your chance. From 6 – 10pm, Mike promises to do that and lots more at 198 Allen Street. Last week, we met up and caught up a bit.

When we last spoke in 2014, you said that your goal was to create 100,000 one-line matchbox portraits? Mine was 11,206! How close are you to your goal?

My most recent was #13,021! I’ve done quite a few at 17 Frost, at 198 Allen, on the trains, on the streets — anywhere I can!

How do you approach folks? And how do they respond?

I simply say, “Give me a New York moment; I’ll draw your portrait in one line on a matchbox in one minute.” They generally respond with skepticism. But once they see the portrait I’ve created, they like it.

In addition to your ongoing matchbox project, what other projects have engaged you as of late?

I’ve been preparing for my upcoming solo show and performance If Basquiat and Keith Haring had a baby…reimagining the works of Basquiat and Haring in one-line drawings. I’ve, also, been working on creating sculptures inspired by Warhol; instead of using Brillo boxes, I use Nike boxes. And I’ve been staging wrestling as dance, which will be projected –along with large portraits — onto a huge screen outside 198 Allen.

What inspires you to keep creating?

I’m compulsive. I have to. And people, the street art community in particular, have been welcoming and supportive.

Are there any particular artists out there who continue to influenc your aesthetic?

Obviously Haring and Basquiat. But other main influences include UFO and Neckface.

Anything else new — in terms of your art-making?

I’ve been getting my original drawings into hand-made books. I recently constructed a 3o-pocket rotating magazine rack, and I’ve filled it with all hand-made original artbooks and magazines. I also create on a larger variety of surfaces.

What’s ahead?

Murals, prints and reproducibles.

Good luck with it all!

Note: You can keep up with 0H10 M1ke here — now that he’s posting on Instagram!

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; all images courtesy of the artist

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Two brilliantly conceived and beautifully executed murals – one by Sonny Sundancer and the other by ASVP – surfaced last month on the exterior walls of IS 318 in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Sonny’s mural– at the corner of Lorimer Street and Throop Avenue – depicts a Yawanawa girl from Acre, Brazil, along with a jaguar, representative of a species that is sacred to the indigenous peoples and at risk of extinction. ASVP‘s black and white tower mural — painted on the opposite wall — features an elephant, bear, tiger and more, all interdependent and threatened or endangered in some capacity.

While visiting the school last week for the murals’ dedication and ribbon cutting, I had the opportunity to pose a few questions to Greenpoint Innovations founder Stephen Donofrio, who had organized the The Point NYC project.

These hugely impressive murals are one component of The Point NYC initiative. Just what is The Point NY?

It is a collaborative venture — among Comics Uniting Nations, Greenpoint Innovations, Hypokrit Theatre Company, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and UNICEF — that brings together artists, producers, educators and local environmentalists for a series of artistic productions and events. Among these are: a comic book, public murals, a theatrical experience, open dialogue and an educational toolkit.

What is its ultimate mission?

Its mission is to respond to the human impact of climate change and to exercise the power we all have, particularly the youth, to take action for a better future.

And what inspired the direction that this project has taken?

It was inspired by a comic book story —Tre, by Sathviga ‘Sona’ Sridhar — about a climate change superhero. Sona had become passionate about climate change when her town in Chennai, India was flooded and when she heard about the Climate Comic Contest by UNICEF and Comics Uniting Nations, she decided to submit her art.

How did you connect with Sonny Sundancer and ASVP? Their murals are perfect for this project, as they are exquisite and brilliantly reflect environmental issues.

Karin du Maire introduced me to Sonny, and I met ASVP at the Moniker Art Fair in Greenpoint this past spring. Both Sonny and ASVP were ideal to work with, as they are not only wonderful artists, but caring people.

Were you presented with any particular challenges in seeing the project through?

Coordinating with the Department of Education was somewhat of a task. And then discovering that a segment of the wall that Sonny had completed had been coated to protect it from any lasting paint was another challenge. But – with considerable effort — we overcame them both!

How have the members of the local community responded to these two murals?

The response has been overwhelmingly positive. They love them.

And thank you for initiating this project!

Photo credits: 1 & 2 Lois Stavsky; 3 Karin du Maire aka Street Art Nomad; interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; 

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A master of style and ingenuity, the wonderfully talented and resourceful Sade TCM has been making his mark in the writing culture and beyond for over three decades. Recently, we had the opportunity to visit and interview the Mount Vernon-based modern legend.

When did you first get up?

I was in 7th grade when I hit the doors of Clark Junior High School in the South Bronx. I was hanging out in school with Rush M.P.C. who was tagging at the time with fat black markers. He suggested I try it. I did!

What inspired you to keep at it?

Graffiti was all around me. On ceilings. In hallways. Daze and Crash were doing gates that I passed every day while walking around my neighborhood.

And what about trains? When did you first hit the trains?

I was in 10th grade. It was the winter of 1982.

Have you any early graffiti-related memories that stand out?

There are many, but the one that stands out is the day I arrived. The previous evening, I was over at the Esplanade lay-up in the Bronx at the Morris Park/Esplanade stop. I had written SADEISM across three quarters of a  blue and silver car — a beige interior, cherry red outline, sky blue flame cloud with a regal blue outline and white highlights. The next day — as I was sitting on the Writers Bench at 149th Street and the Grand Concourse, along with Dez, G-man PGA, Sob and Cose — the train rolled by and and stopped directly in front of us. What a thrill that was! I knew then that I had arrived!

Did you generally hit the trains alone? 

I was often with my partner, Dune.

What was the riskiest thing you had done back in the day? And why were you willing to take those risks?

Running around in subways tunnels with live third rails and riding on tops of trains when they’re moving –- train surfing — were all risky. Why did I take those risks?  Youthful ignorance of consequences.

How did your family feel about what you were doing?

They mostly didn’t know about it. But my mother definitely didn’t like it. She thought it was stupid, and she warned me that if I got arrested, she wouldn’t be coming to pick me up.

Would you rather paint legally or illegally?

Back then, it was all illegal. But these days I’d rather paint legally. I like the leisure of legal.

You are a master of styles — over 1,000, in fact!. Is there anyone in particular with whom you’d like to paint with or battle?

Yes! I’d like to paint with Baby 168. And I’d like to battle Skeme, because he called me a toy!

How do you feel about the movement of street art and graffiti into galleries? Have you shown in galleries?

It’s a natural evolution. It legitimizes the value of the art. I’ve shown at Wall Works, at More Points and at the galleries of Westchester Community College and SUNY/Purchase University.

What is the main source of your income?

It has always been related to art. After I graduated from high school, I started my own business painting murals. But then after I was involved in a serious accident in 2000, I  switched to graphic design.

Have you a formal art education?

I earned an associates degree in visual arts from Westchester Community College and a BFA from SUNY/Purchase University. But when it came to graffiti, my primary educators were those writers I admired. I’d watch their work on lines as I was coming up.

Was your formal education worthwhile?

Carla Rae Johnson challenged me to use a pencil when I was a student at Westchester Community College. And at Purchase, I learned the most from my anthropology teacher regarding understanding cultures. A formal education did open my mind to broader possibilities.

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

95% of the time I work from a sketch.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

Am I satisfied with it? Yes! Am I happy with it? No!

What is your ideal work environment?

My living room and my courtyard, here in Mount Vernon.

What inspires you these days? I’m a visual junkie. Sometimes sculpture. It could be anything! I draw every single day, and I always attempt to do something I haven’t done before.

How has your art evolved through the years?

It’s evolved in both subject matter and technique. I now draw beyond graffiti letters, and draw with pencils, crayons, and charcoal brushes.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Edgar Degas, I like the way he captured light…Roy Lichtenstein and Frank Frazetta. Among graffiti writers: Crash, Daze, Baby 168, Dondi, Tac, Spade, Dez, Part and Kel.

What are some of your other interests?

Writing and cooking. I used to be into motorcycle drag racing.

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

I feel that the divide exists because of titles. Graffiti writers and street artists can inspire one another. An evolution took place. Many of the early street artists like Keith Haring, Hektad, A. Charles and Richard Hambleton bombed the streets in the spirit of graffiti. Problems arise when street artists scoff at graffiti. Graffiti has not yet gotten the legitimacy it deserves.

What about the role of social media in all of this? How do you feel about that?

It’s a double-edged sword. It’s great for gaining more documentation, knowledge  and exposure. But as the evolution of styles continues to grow at an alarming rate, the Internet has also ushered in an age of mediocrity.

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

A documentarian of the imagination, and the imagination is unlimited.

You recently curated an amazing event in the South Bronx celebrating the launch of the art collective, Ngozy. You were its principal founder.  What prompted you to launch it?

As an artist growing up in NYC, I know firsthand the struggles that artists face — particularly graffiti artists. Our culture is not given the value — nor the serious documentation — that it merits. We know that we have to start somewhere, and collectively we are stronger. Conversations with Ngozy partners John”Crash” Matos and Robert Kantor led to the birth of Ngozy

What is Ngozy‘s mission?

Among its many missions is to reach and educate the broad community about our culture.  We aim to facilitate the artists’ ability to sell and promote their art, as we make the art experience financially accessible to a wide public.

How can folks find out what artworks are available through Ngozy?

They can visit our site or download our free app for iOS or Android.

And what about artists? How can they become involved?

Anyone can register, set up an account, and submit work on the site or on the app. Blog posts and notices of events are also welcome!

I’ve recently registered, and it looks wonderful! I was delighted to discover the works of some of my favorite artists on the Ngozy site. What are some of the challenges you face in promoting the Ngozy collective?

The legitimacy of our art form remains a challenge. We need to shift the understanding of our culture on all levels. Getting exposure is essential, so that we can introduce Ngozy to new people. And we need sponsorship to accomplish our goals.

What’s ahead for Ngozy?

We are working on an all female live-painting event for October 27th, and we are currently seeking sponsorship. Among the many artists scheduled to participate are: Lady Pink, Shiro, Erotica and Steph Burr. Specific details and information will soon follow.

Note: Sade can be contacted at gfantauzzi22@gmail.com.

Interview conducted by Lois Stavsky with Tara Murray and edited by Lois Stavsky; all photos courtesy of Sade.

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Intent on empowering women and raising awareness on social justice, diversity and gender equality, Daniela ZOE Croci has been busy!  I recently had the opportunity to catch up with her and find out a bit more about Women to the Front, a project she has launched.– its  mission and its needs.

Can you tell us something about Women to the Front? You were its principal founder. What spurred you to launch it?  What is its mission?

Its mission is to equalize the gender balance in the arts. During the years that I was active at Exit Room — curating exhibits, arranging performances, organizing presentations and reaching out to the media — I felt that most of the males I came in contact with were dismissive of me. They largely avoided me, and I sensed that they did not take me seriously. In addition, about 80% of the artists who exhibited were male. It was time for a change!

Women to the Front was founded to provide opportunities for women to get together, inspire one another and to collaborate. At our events, you can expect to meet deejays, filmmakers, visual artists, performers and vendors – all females. Panel discussions on a range of relevant topics also take place. We are all about diversity and inclusion. Our mission is to inspire women to just “do it!”

When did Women to the Front hold its first event? 

Its premier event was held at Superchief Gallery here in Brooklyn in November, 2017. I’ve since partnered with Terry Lovette, a singer, performer, dancer and graphic designer. And we are now working on Women to the Front‘s third edition.

How do you decide which women to showcase in your events?

Diversity is essential. The majority of women we showcase are women of color, Latinas and Natives. I reach out to females who create meaningful art, often in relation to trauma and patriarchy. Essential, too, is the individual’s engagement with issues of social justice.

How do you go about finding these women?

Since I moved here. I’ve developed strong connections with many diverse communities through my involvement with hip-hop and dance.

What are some of the challenges you face in seeing your mission through?

One of the biggest challenges is getting folks to know about us. So much is going on, and the amount of information we receive via social media can be overwhelming. Raising funds is another huge challenge. We need money to pay artists, performers, panel discussion participants and more. We would also need sponsorship to enable us to produce videos and publicize what we are doing. We’ve set up a Go Fund Me to help make this happen.

What’s ahead?

A huge event, our third edition of Women to the Front, will take place on Thursday, November 15th at Superchief Gallery. And on October 11th, and a small pre-event will be held at the New Women Space, a community organizing space near the Graham Avenue stop on the L train. We are also working on setting up a Women to the Front Instagram feed and a Facebook account.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; photo credits: 1 Erika Dickstein, 2 & 3  Zack Nesmith and flyer image-painting Jasmin Charles

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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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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An exuberant celebration of “invention, creativity, curiosity and hands-on learning,” the 9th Annual World Maker Faire New York took place this past weekend on the grounds of the New York Hall of Science in Flushing, Queens. Among this year’s exhibitors was Ad Hoc Art, presenting live truck painting, along with live T-shirt screen printing. While there, I had the opportunity to pose a few questions to Ad Hoc Art owner and co-founder Garrison Buxton (pictured below with Maker Faire director Sabrina Merlo).

What an extraordinary event this is! So much is going on here — from inventive exhibits to immersive workshops to interactive hands-on learning. Can you tell us something about Maker Faire? Its mission?

Among its missions is to celebrate creativity, while inspiring inquisitive dreamers to realize and share their dreams in any number of fields — be they art, science, technology…

How did you become engaged with Maker Faire? What spurred you to participate in this year’s festival?

Geoff Taylor — whose brother I had previously worked with — approached me about participating in this year’s World Maker Faire New York. And since I love its approach to the concepts of both community-engagement and collaborative art-making, we’re here!

These trucks look great, and the kids who come by are fascinated by them. Why did you choose to use trucks as the canvas for this live art-making project? 

I love their mobility, as so many people will have the opportunity to see them. And the art is likely to last.

How did you select which artists to include?

I wanted a balance of men and women, and they are all artists I’ve worked with in previous projects through Ad Hoc Art, including the Welling Court Mural Project.

How have folks responded to what you have brought to World Maker Faire New York?

The response has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic! And we’ve been awarded two blue ribbons from the festival’s organizers!

That’s great! I’m so looking forward to next year’s World Maker Faire New York!

Images:

  1. Gera Luz (standing) in collaboration with Werc
  2. Garrison Buxton with Sabrina Merlo
  3. Outer Source at work
  4. Jenna Morello
  5. Cern posing in front of huge segment of his truck mural
  6. Screen-printing by Peter J. McGouran

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; photos by Lois Stavsky

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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