someone had actually added a penis and balls to the boy’s figure… my act of guerilla art was to remove them (in photoshop!)
someone had actually added a penis and balls to the boy’s figure… my act of guerilla art was to remove them (in photoshop!)
These were all taken pretty much with just a few blocks of each other not far from our apartment, mostly down one street, which was really pretty mindblowing.
They take their graffiti seriously here.
Amsterdam may not be the birthplace of the Renaissance (that honor is most commonly attributed to Florence, Italy), but the centuries old city certainly experienced a revitalization of epic proportions during the 17th century, considered it’s “Golden Age.” The city was known as a center for Europe’s free press, and also a bastion of religious tolerance. And as Europe’s most important shipping center, it became the wealthiest city in the world (as well as its financial center). In the early part of this century, when immigration was at its peak, the city developed its current canal system of 4 concentric half-circles, which remains essentially intact, hundreds of years later.
Subsequent centuries saw declines in Amsterdam, both in wealth and population (not unlike the plight of Oakland, albeit much later in the 20th century, post WWII).
When we emerged from the Amsterdam Central train station near our short-term apartment, this is what the station looked like…
And a huge Shepard Fairey installation was set up on some temporary construction walls right outside…
I’m in heaven!!!
Hey kids… so I kind of wrote a lot yesterday, eh? And this here post is even longer, twice as long in fact. My dear friend who knows of these things says the average blog post should be 250 words… no more, no less. This interview clocks in at more than 5 times that! So I’m going to take a bit of a breather… take the weekend off, give you folks a chance to catch up. Plus I’m going to see bluegrass! Have a great weekend and I’ll see ya’ll next week…
P.S. – all photos (except last) courtesy of Mark Bode
First Mark, let me thank you for bringing your artwork to West Oakland! When we met briefly a few weeks ago while you were working on the Nymphs mural. I hope it’s ok that I call it this… does it have a real name?
I refer to it as the Forest Fairy mural. It was inspired by my friends who are amazing artists from Brazil who call themselves Os Gêmeos, which means “The Twins” in Portuguese. They are simply amazing artists and they visited me recently for the first time.
You mentioned that you had been part of a similar mural project in the mission district of San Francisco. Can you talk a bit about that?
I was a part of The Lilac Street Project between 24th and 25th and Mission. It’s an alley way behind Mission street where the tagging and activities there had become seedy and out of control. So a group of artists and a very savvy couple by the names of Randolph Bose and Lisa Brewer spearheaded the transformation with mural work. And it worked like a charm.
As the artists completed the murals, more and more tourists came through to photograph them, transforming the alley into a tourist attraction which actively stopped the tagging and caused the seedy activity to move elsewhere. Amazing! The owners of the property were very happy for their decision and it was a positive thing for the neighborhood. Overall there were around a dozen local and international artists that contributed to the cause. The artists were taken care of with grant money from the efforts of Randolph and Lisa.
Did your experience with the Mission project influence you in wanting to do something in West Oakland? Why West Oakland?
Of course! I went to The Arts School at Peralta High School on Peralta Street around 1977. Now one of my art school teachers Kathryn Porter owns property in the area, and at a recent high school reunion at that location I told Kathryn I would love to do some mural work in the spot where my friends and I first started doing art. And she agreed.
More times than not people TALK, but don’t do the WALK. I followed up and did the walk, maybe partially because of my teacher and partially because I met my life long friends there and felt I owed something to the neighborhood. Thus the Peralta Street Project was born… we will see if the city of Oakland agrees.
What I love about these murals is their juxtaposition to the immediate neighborhood that can, at times, feel very bleak. There are boarded up houses nearby, industrial warehouses, the nearby recycling plant that draws many disadvantaged locals pushing their shopping carts full of bottles and cans. It can be a little depresssing. But these murals are beautiful, and very serene I think. The asian woman with her hair and the ribbons behind her flowing in the wind, and the nymphs with their delicate wings, bathing in the mystical pools. Can you talk about why you chose these images specifically?
I only know that I have images that make me feel a certain way that I want to paint. I don’t have a political agenda and I don’t want to preach to the people who live in the area. Just positive imagery. And what I want to paint is my motivation, I have infinite images I want to paint… I’m not sure what spurs it. I want to keep going but I can’t fund the work on inspiration alone as I have a living to make and must move on…
Are the characters from some of your comics?
No , this is from another place. Comics are tedious and small. Sometimes I have an urge to go big with imagery and use my whole body to convey an image I might have. I must go big before I am too old to do so.
And what does the lettering behind the asian woman say?
It’s Japanese… it says DREAM and LOVE. Maybe not in that order, but it doesn’t matter. Alot of street artists make their pieces hard to decipher and it becomes a code between individuals.. I feel if we start utilizing each other’s languages in the same pieces it may be that we can relate and communicate to each other through that other language, much like music and how it is a universal code.
I asked another muralist about the distinction between graffiti “art” and a lot of the tags I see that don’t seem to require any real skill. Do you see this distinction?
Tagging can be a form of urban art or a territorial thing… in most cases it is an eye sore and is much need of a face lift. If I tag for instance I always put an image with my tag, maybe a beautiful woman or a character that says this is who I am, and I made this spot interesting. Not all will agree. I think taggers should use their flow in a positive way and show they can beautify and not destruct or destroy public property, even if it’s mundane and sterile at times.
In fact, I noticed you had to come back and clean up a couple of these tags on one of your murals. Is it difficult to see your work altered? Or is that just part of the whole street art thing?
It can make you angry if taggers go over such wonderful things and start a war of mind and thought, “Why did they do this? Why can’t they see the positive thing we are doing for the very same neighborhood they live in?” Well, I know in most cases that a true street artist will have respect for what the artist has done and won’t deface it. Sometimes there is a situation where a young person feels empowered by the act. For me, I love doing the piece and I just get to work on it more if I have to touch it up. I was, in an off-handed way, glad to return to the piece. But that attitude is rare… I don’t make beef, I just wonder “why deface a positive to the hood?”
Are there any “rules” about altering other artists’ works?
If it is a spot that is permanent then yes we have a rule. Like Peralta, I am trying to make a more colorful place for people to live in. If someone has a different vision, we should work with them. But if they are defacing our work there is a social or economic problem that is deeper than the imagery. Maybe they need a hug!!!
It seems one of the great things about street art is that you have exposure to a much broader audience than people who would typically know of your work (comic book fans, graf artists, etc.) What do you hope the random passerby takes away from his/her experience of these paintings?
It already happened while the piece was being created… I teared up when a homeless person looked up and said “I love her” and smiled. That is worth every moment, and I heard that multiple times during the creation of the Maki piece. People love her and it makes them feel a good feeling as they do their daily grind, whatever that may be. Ill do it again in a second if I can..
What are your plans for future murals in the neighborhood? You mentioned working with the folks at Custom Alloy Recycling. Any movement there?
We will see what happens there… they seem receptive. I hope the art will prevail and we can cheer up West Oakland and the bay area with ART!
And lastly, if folks want to get involved and help out with your next mural, is that possible? If so, how should they contact you?
Thanks for your time Mark. And thanks for bringing your positive energy to West Oakland.
Wow… so yesterday was a bit controversial… on a couple levels. That’s GOOD.
First, we got reprimanded for promoting illegal activity (and even making fun of the ways to not get caught… which I still think is hilarious). Let me say here in public, what I also wrote directly to this commenter, who since, retracted his comment of critique and offered up a more positive response…
My goal here is to promote ART. Both the conventional (legal, publicly condoned/sanctioned) and the unconventional (which yes, at times, can be illegal). I am not a proponent of altering or defacing private (or public for that matter) property without permission. That’s ME… those are my values. For the most part, I believe the laws enacted by our representative government are designed for the benefit of society at large. Though there have certainly been many mistakes along the way… we learn as we go. I also said in a past post (see There Are Laws About These Things…) that I believe it’s up to each artist to decide for him/herself what is acceptable behavior, and what risks are willing to be undertaken.
We live in a society based upon liberty. And the First Amendment to our Constitution (its position at the top of the list indicates its primary importance) guarantees us all the rights of free speech. Yes, this can be interpreted in a mind boggling number of ways, exampled by the current legal challenges to campaign finance reform (who knew money was speech?!?) But I would argue, and I’m sure others have too, that displays of art can be considered speech as well.
This doesn’t give the artist the right to deface another individual’s property… that person has guaranteed rights as well. But it does guarantee the artist the right to display his message (his speech) somewhere. And here is my beef… we’ve left few public spaces for the artists.
We’ve got plenty of abandoned, dilapidated properties in this city that certainly aren’t being tended to by their owners. Artists take advantage of these sites because they have few other options if they want to display their art publicly, and I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. If kids are running around w/ paint, chalk, posters, and wheatpaste in an effort to be creative, isn’t that a hell of a lot better than running around with guns and drugs?
Let’s find ways to support their creativity… channel it in positive ways, eh? Some cities have designed skate parks for skateboarders… can’t we set aside Art parks for Artists? I personally think this would be way cool. And a magnet, not just for artists, but art patrons and tourists alike. My upcoming interview with Mark Bode talks about just such a project in San Francisco. Check back soon for that…
The second controversy from yesterday’s post involved the content of the images. A friend of mine said she found the newsprint photographs of what I assume are developmentally challenged individuals, disturbing.
I believe there is plenty of great art that can (and is designed to) delight us. That’s one function. But there are other functions as well, and sometimes the best art, the kind that moves society forward in new ways of thinking, is, well… disturbing.
I’m not saying the wheat pastes from yesterday fall into that category… maybe they do, maybe they don’t. What I am saying is that we can choose to live in a sanitized world where we are spared from disturbing imagery (think of the Bush era’s manipulation of the media to prevent us from seeing any of the deceased soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan). Or we can live in a world where we confront reality… disturbing as it may be at times.
Having said all that, today I will delight you with something I think few would find controversial. It’s another pet hospital mural by our friend Stefen from Land of the Sky Blue Waters. It’s titled “Promenade at Lake Merrit” and was created in 2004, and dedicated to the protection of Lake Merritt in 2005. Enjoy…
So here’s something random I came across yesterday… These are wheat pastes, which are essentially home made stickers. These were spotted around Lake Merritt on the bases of a few light fixtures. I’ll be covering Lake Merritt in more depth in upcoming posts… there a lot going on there right now.
Each base had a bunny/carrot cartoon on one side, and what seems to be a piece of newsprint on the other. I have no idea if this was all done by one artist, or a pair, each claiming one side. In either case, it’s pretty weird.
Wheat paste is commonly used by graffiti artists to hang posters & smaller applications and is a simple solution made out of water and flour. It’s one of the most environmentally friendly adhesives because it’s made from organic materials that eventually break down.
It’s also essentially the same goop we all used as kids to make paper mache piggy banks around balloons in arts & crafts… do you remember? I do!
Here’s a link to “the best wheat paste recipe” (self-proclaimed):
The post also offers some tips for how to go about applying your art without getting caught, and undoubtedly my favorite is “Carry a Gap shopping bag.” Who could possibly suspect a fine upstanding consumer of Gap products? I love it!
Hey everybody… so I don’t really have a theme this week. I think I’m just gonna go a little stream-of-consciousness on y’all. Free things up a bit. Get a little bit random…
Yesterday I was on my way back from a small photoshoot for Oakland magazine, when I spotted a couple graffiti murals out of the corner of my eye. I circled back to get a closer look and passed this wild ride on my way…
I had just been thinking, literally the day before (while posting my modified truck w/ diamond plated flames), “where have all the art cars gone?” I feel like you used to be able to see them all the time, but lately I haven’t seen as many. Then, BOOM! This gem.
The universe provides, people. Don’t forget it.
This baby’s got it all… Yellow Submarine, Ziggy Stardust, My Little Pony, Mr. Potato Head, and more. And why the hell not?? Let’s all get a little bit random! (SOV)