yarn-bombing

Working with yarn, Carmen Paulino aka Carmen Community Artist has been busily bringing intriguing images and timely messages to the streets of East Harlem and beyond. I was delighted to recently meet her and find out a bit about her:

When did you first share your artwork in a public space?

Back in 2015, I did live painting outdoors with members of my East Harlem community. And then in 2018, I began yarn-bombing. I’d been working with yarn for years, but only then did I get it out in public.

What inspired you to do so at the time?

I had participated in an exhibition of fiber art at El Barrio Art Space. And I was suddenly inspired to take my art outside. I saw it as a way to beautify my community. I love East Harlem, and I wanted to add color to my neighborhood.

Were there any particular artists who inspired you to get your vision out on the streets?

Yes! Two particular artists who stand out are: Naomi Lawrence aka Naomi Rag – who’s been active in East Harlem now for several years – and the Philadelphia-based yarn bomber Nicole Nikolich aka Lace in the Moon.

Do you generally have permission to install your artwork?

Yes! I always know someone who has some connection to the site.

What is the attitude of your friends and family to what you are doing?

They are all proud of me!

What is your main source of income?

In 2014, I began working as a teaching artist in community centers, hospitals and senior centers. But for the past three years, I’ve worked mostly with seniors – and I love it! They are a constant source of inspiration.

Besides crafting with yarn and teaching art, have you any other particular interests?

I love to paint. I had a phenomenal teacher — when I was a student at Richard Green High School — who encouraged me, and I’ve been painting ever since.

Do you prefer working alone or collaborating with others?

I enjoy doing both. I’ve recently collaborated with Alisha aka Little Nugget Workshop, Viviana Rambay and Glenys Rivas.

Have you a formal art education?

No. I’m essentially self-taught. I learned my craft from my grandmother and mother.

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?

Spanish culture – Indigenous, Latin American, Colombian.

Have you exhibited your work in a gallery setting?

Yes. I’m actively involved with the El Barrio Art Space.

Early in the pandemic many of your pieces expressed gratitude to the essential workers and urged folks to stay home. More recently your artworks have been focusing on the importance of voting in the upcoming election. What inspires your pieces?

I’m inspired by the people I meet and what is happening around me. In early spring my pieces were largely inspired by my husband, FDNY EMS Paramedic Michael Paulino — who has been working in the front line — and by all of the essential workers out there who put so much at risk. Current affairs have triggered my newer works.

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

No. I don’t work with a sketch. My work evolves as I create it.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

Always!

What do you see as the role of the artist in society? And your role – in particular?

I see the artist as an agent of change. And my role is to bring a sense of peace and safety to my community, while beautifying it.

What’s ahead?

A collaborative memorial for East Harlem victims of Covid-19.

Thank you, Carmen, for all that you do!  I am looking forward to what’s ahead.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photos: 1 & 4, courtesy of the artist; 2, 3, 5 & 6 Lois Stavsky

Note: Photo 3 features a collaboration with Alisha S aka Little Nugget Workshop, and the fourth photo features a collaboration with Alisha S aka Little Nugget Workshop, Viviana Rambay and Glenys Rivas.

{ 0 comments }

With street artists fiercely focusing now on addressing the social, economic and racial inequalities that the pandemic has only accentuated, Bill Posters’ new book, The Street Art Manual, is particularly timely. It is a paean to the spirit of art as activism.

For the past decade, Bill Posters — an award-winning artist, author and agitator — has worked alongside other artists and activists to create some of the world’s most illicit and impressive art projects. In The Street Art Manual, he earnestly, but playfully, presents practical guidance and advice on creating street art that challenges the inequitable status quo.

Providing tactics for successfully mounting campaigns that infiltrate the public sphere with everything from graffiti, stencils and pasteups to huge murals, projectiles and guerrilla projections, Poster discusses and describes in detail the necessary materials and techniques each mission demands. He also provides an extensive list of DO’s and DON’T’s for each of the distinct genres of street art. Should you subvert advertisements, for example, you are advised to “look like an employee of an outdoor-ad company” and not to “go out at a time that is different from when the real worker goes out to work.”

While many of the interventions featured are unsanctioned and can — if not carried out cautiously — involve a range of risks, not all are. One of the mediums included in The Street Art Manual is mural art. Large-scale murals — which so many of us have come to identify with corporate interests and gentrification — can also enrich neighborhoods. Artists painting outdoor murals have the opportunity and space to raise awareness of critical issues, celebrate distinct cultures and engage local folks. It is a way for artists, contends Posters, to give back to others while awakening consciousness.

The Italian artist Millo, for example, painted an 11-story-tall mural in the center of Santiago symbolizing “the hope that we must all find in relation to protecting the environment and reversing the ecological destruction that is causing our climate to collapse.”

Of particular interest to us street art aficionados is Post’s summary of each art form’s history. Wheat-pasting or poster-bombing can be traced back to 2000 BCE when papyrus was used to create promotional posters and flyers — formerly called bills — in such places as ancient Arabia, China, Greece, Rome and Egypt.  And we learn that yarn bombing, an increasingly popular international mode of public guerrilla expression, originally started in Houston, Texas in 2005 by a woman named Magda Sayeg who went on to gather a crew, Knitta Please.

Illustrated by Matt Bonner and published by Laurence King Publishing, Bill Posters’ The Street Art Manual delights, informs and provokes. It also renews our faith in street art as a tool for progressive social change in these fragile times.

Released globally today, September 3, the book is available here.

Images courtesy Laurence King Publishing.

{ 0 comments }

Located on 120th Street and Park Avenue in East Harlem, Eugene McCabe Field is now home to two tantalizing public art installations.  Featured above is a close-up from local fiber artist Naomi RAG‘s 12 x 24 foot mural fashioned from yarn.

A larger segment of the mural

The mural, La Flor De Mi Madre, in its entirety

Harlem-based Capucine Bourcart, Eat Me!, a photographic mosaic of approximately 1,500 printed metal square pictures of local healthy food — asking to be eaten!

Photos captured at dusk in the heat 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.

en-play-badge 2

{ 0 comments }

While wandering the streets of Tel Aviv and Jaffa, I’ve come upon dozens of portraits of females in a wide range of styles and media. The artwork pictured above was fashioned by the city’s celebrated veteran muralist Rami Meiri. More images of girls on walls, including several that surfaced within the past few months, follow:

Tel Aviv-based muralist and graffiti writer Arad Levy

Tel Aviv-based muralist and tattoo artist MUHA ack

Tel Aviv-based muralist and graffiti writer Dales One

Mosaic of over 50,000 beer bottle caps — collected throughout Europe — fashioned by Rinat Look Elhik

Tel Aviv-based crochet artist and yarn bomber Liza Mamali

Tel Aviv-based designer and street artist Imaginary Duck

Photos by Lois Stavsky

{ 1 comment }

For the past several wintry months, fiber artist Naomi RAG has been beautifying East Harlem with her splendid yarn bombing. Yesterday, I spoke briefly to Naomi.

"Naomi RAG"

 When did you first begin to grace public streets with your talents?

The first time I yarnbombed was four years ago back in Cambridge, England.

 What inspired you to do so at the time?

Via social media, I had heard about International Yarnbombing Day, and I loved the idea of bringing color and beauty to our urban landscape.

Naomi-RAG-yarn-bomb-east-harlem-street-art-nyc

naomi-RAG-street-art-yarn-bomb-east-harlem-New-Years-Eve-Pointsettia-nyc

Where else have you yarnbombed?

Liverpool’s Crosby District — where I was staying for a bit — and here in East Harlem, where I’ve lived for the past year.

 What is your impression of your new neighborhood?

I just love it! I especially love its diversity. It is quite similar to the London Borough of Hackney.

Naomi-RAG-east-harlem-tree-yarn-bombing

"Naomi RAG"

How have folks here responded to your pieces here in East Harlem?

All the feedback has been positive. And it’s the positive reactions that motivate me to keep at it.

What’s ahead?

My goal is to create one new piece a month to share here in the public sphere.

That sounds great!  We are looking forward! 

Photos 1-3, Lois Stavsky; 4 & 5, Dani Reyes Mozeson

{ 3 comments }

Speaking with Spidertag

July 18, 2013

Based in Madrid, Spidertag is known for his masterful geometrical and abstract artworks fashioned with yarn and nails. I recently met up with him during his visit to New York City, where he left his mark at 5Pointz.

Spidertag

When did you start getting up?

I started doing graffiti in 2000, and in 2008 I began working as Spidertag.

Have you any preferred surfaces?

I like abandoned places. Just like a spider, I only build my geometrical webs in out-of the way, deserted spaces. When people are present, a spider’s web does not last.

Have you ever been arrested?

Not for this, but I was arrested in Berlin for bombing.

What was that like?

They pepper-sprayed me and punched me. They kept me over night.

Spidertag

Wow! And I thought the authorities in Berlin were lenient!

Not if you’re caught bombing.

What percentage of your time is devoted to your art?

All day, all night.

What is your main source of income?

Freelance photography and design. Selling artworks.

Any thoughts about the graffiti/street art divide?

I try to connect them both. But, clearly, street art is more acceptable, and street artists have more freedom than graffiti writers. In some ways, street art legitimizes graffiti.

Spidertag

Do you prefer working alone or collaborating with others?

Both. I like working alone, but I also like the mix of techniques that comes with collaboration.

With whom have you collaborated?

Back in Spain, I collaborated with Señor X, Gaucholadri, EC13 and El Niño De Las Pinturas. And in Berlin, I collaborated with Hottea.

What do you see as the role of the Internet in all this?

It’s important  — because what we do is so ephemeral.

Have you a formal art education?

I studied sculpture, but most of what I do comes from what I taught myself and through reading. I’m an avid reader.

Spidertag

What’s the riskiest thing you ever did?

Doing art while standing in deep cold water. It was irresistible.

Your work is certainly unique. What is the source of your inspiration?

I love to experiment with different materials. I’m inspired by geometrics. And I’m always trying to do something different and better. Particular spots, also, inspire me.

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

I usually don’t work with sketches.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

Sometimes. If I like it, it feels like magic. I jump for joy. And if I don’t like it, I forget about it.

Spidertag

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?

Egyptian.

How has your work evolved through the years?

I’m more engaged with the materials that I use. These days nails have a hold on me. And I’m more particular with the spots that I choose.

What’s ahead?

A movie is coming soon. More experimentation, more geometry. I don’t want to repeat myself. I would like to Spidertag an entire abandoned town, my dreamed kingdom.

Gee – that’s quite ambitious. It sounds great! What do you see as the role of the artist in society?

I wish the artist did have a significant role in society. I’m not sure he does. But the way I see it — his main goal is to teach others to follow their hearts.

Interview by Lois Stavsky. First two images photographed by Lois Stavsky at 5Pointz in Long Island City, Queens. All other photos are courtesy of the artist.

{ 8 comments }