Learning how to create public art & make change.
All images courtesy of Immigrant Movement International
“What I’m doing with the cups is I’m up-cycling them. They’re not trash to me, I’m turning them into art objects, which the art gallery sells. I want people who come in here to think about that. What else in their life can they turn into art…that they would otherwise throw away or disregard?” -Gwyneth Leech
- Gwyneth is inpsired by choral music, especially Palestrina and Thomas Tallis, and the blog Laughing Squid
- DIY directions: Gwyneth saves her cups and draws on them with Faber Castell pens and water color. When she’s done with the design she coats the cup with acrylic varnish or other sealants suitable for drawings, to preserve the paper from oxygen, oil, and moisture.
- Here’s a link to the project she inspired in Singapore, Paint a Miracle
- Visit Gwyneth’s blog and facebook, and follow @gwynethleech on twitter
“By valuing the arts I feel like you value..people’s opinions…across race, class because we all express ourselves and arts doesn’t see the color of one’s skin.” -Sharon De La Cruz, graffiti artist and program director of ACTION and WOMEN at The Point
All images courtesy of Sharon De La Cruz and The Point.
- Want to get involved? Email occupycomix[at]gmail.com
- Want to make your own comic? Terry recommends printing with MagCloud
- Terry is inspired by Dream: Re-imaging Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy by Stephen Duncombe, Beautiful Trouble, The Modern Prince by Antonio Gramsci, and Stuart Hall
- Follow @BajanCool on twitter & like them on facebook
- Most of all, DOWNLOAD OCCUPY COMIX ISSUES 1 & 2 FOR FREE!
“Places like The Point are really marking this area as a cultural destination.” - Carey Clark, Visual Arts Program Director at The Point
Daniel Bejar: My name is Daniel Bejar. I like to say my practice is interdisciplinary. I work with intervention, site specificity, sculpture, performance, and photography as a way to do a cultural critique. I’m interested in critiquing culture and appropriating more or less everything around us.
ArtRoots: What inspired you to work outside a gallery-museum context for Get Lost and Discover?
DB: Well, coincidentally both of them take place in the subway. They’re not connected, but the critique I wanted to make meant they had to be within the subway system.
For Get Lost what I was doing was returning the subway map and the language and signage back to what it hypothetically would have sounded and looked like prior to colonial intervention when Henry Hudson showed up in 1609. Then I wanted to put it back into the system to make it alive.
Someone referred to my work as being populist and there is something nice about everybody being able to experience it. You don’t have to be in the art scene or go to Chelsea. And if you don’t get it on the first time, maybe it’ll pop up on another train and you’ll see it again.
AR: Is accessibility an important like factor in your work?
DB: I think so, yeah. I think it’s also about public space. Like it happens, it’s real, people experience it. A lot of my projects take place at different sites and happen in the real world. And I think that it is really important that they not be closed off to any section of society.
AR: Do you ever think about your work as illegal?
DB: No. I mean I knew what I was doing was illegal but to me it’s not illegal. I know companies pay thousands of dollars to advertise in the subway, so why not? It’s just another voice.
AR: Do you feel like your voice is something that the public wants to hear?
DB: I’m not interested in what they want to hear, you know, I’m interested in what I want to say and if it’s heard it’s heard, and if it’s not it’s not. A lot of my work, well, some of it, does fly under the radar and I really like that. Like the Discover poster, a lot of people don’t get it. It’s just so subtle, you know, the ships that I put on there just look really natural. But I’m okay with that, like if you get it, that’s awesome, and if not, that’s okay too.
AR: I wanted to talk about your Discover poster, which more than your other work, is very obviously political.
AR: Do you think that art is a particularly good tool for the political?
DB: I think it is. Well, I think it can be. I don’t want to sound cynical, but when you’re going up against politicians who have super PACs with unlimited funds, like there really isn’t a way to compete with that spectacle. So that’s why I like going to the other, opposite end, like the so quiet end. But I think art can be political and it should be. For me it’s very important to be political, in my work and in my practice.
AR: Would you call yourself an activist?
DB: No. You can use art in your activism, but I don’t think my work or my goals are activist goals.
AR: What type of goals do you have when you start a project?
DB: That’s a good question. For me a work is to be smart and it needs to be critical. And, then aesthetics would come behind those two.
AR: How do you define success of a project?
DB: Well for Get lost and Discover it worked because I did what I set out to do. Some people saw them, some didn’t. But for me the principle is that I got them up, I carried out what I wanted to do.
But, I mean, to me there’s two layers of success. If I carry out my initial goals for the project, my idea, then that’s one layer of success. And if it’s, say received well within the community or the public space then that’s, to me that’s like bonus, a cherry on top.
I do check on Internet hits for my online projects like Googleganger, just to see what is popular. But that’s just the nature of the site, like that, that’s the context, the Internet, that’s just the way that space works.
In the subway, there really is no way, outside of like maybe seeing a blog or something, to gauge a project’s impact. I mean unless I sat there all day and watched people look at it, and I really don’t have time for that.
AR: How do you see the online space? You talk about site specificity, and if you put something just online, what does that mean?
DB: Umm … to me that’s, it’s just, it’s another space, just like we’re in this room, like that’s just another place to make something.
AR: And do you think about the audience or … is that less important online? Or maybe it’s more important because that’s a bigger audience?
DB: Yeah. I mean again, audience isn’t in my mind when I’m thinking of executing something. It’s the second thought. But online things can go viral. Things are much faster.
With Neither Here Nor There, I just checked the other day and over a thousand people had viewed it, which was kind of awesome, which I never thought of, but it’s good to see.
Niether Here Nor There is an image and coordinates photographed and posted on google earth by Dan that mark the halfway point between the United States and Puerto Rico.
AR: How do you get funding for these projects?
DB: Yeah, good question. That’s the bad part of what I do. I do freelance illustration and that’s pretty much how I fund everything. But that has to change because it’s, it’s not a sustainable way to work at all, and up until now that’s, it’s been self-funded.
I mean a lot of the stuff is not really saleable. And then sometimes when you’re doing things that, I don’t want to say are illegal, per say, but it can be hard to get money for that, you know.
AR: What inspires you?
DB: The movie Style Wars is pretty, pretty good. It’s about the history of tagging in New York.
AR: What appeals to you about tagging and graffiti?
DB: What appeals to me is that anybody can do it. I’m not saying everything is good, but everybody can do it. Which is what I like about the Internet. Everybody has the tools and it’s almost like Andy Warhol’s idea, you know, today everybody has the tools to have 15 minutes of fame.
AR: In the rest of your life, do you do any organizing or activism or any sort of other civic engagement, or is it mostly just your art?
DB: Only seriously through my art. I mean I’ve gone to, to like rallies and things and marches and the Occupy movement.
AR: Have you made stuff for Occupy Wall Street?
DB: No. Well, I started one thing but that didn’t — it’s kind of on hold right now.
AR: Is it that funny hat-thing?
DB: Yeah, this is a Phrygian cap. They look like Smurf hats. They were passed down through history. Freed Roman slaves would wear them to symbolize their freedom. Then during the French Revolution, the revolutionaries would wear them and even in America, during the Revolution, the Sons of Liberty that were down here in lower Manhattan, would wear them.
But what the French would do, they would take the Phrygian caps and put them all over, like on the statues in the city to symbolize freedom. So I made one and I put it on statue in Zuccotti Park. But I started doing this in December and these women were like, “Oh, it’s so cute, it’s a Santa hat.” So the context was lost because of the time.
AR: So you have to wait ‘til it’s the summertime to put them up?
DB: Yeah. I think I’ll wait ‘til like spring or something to start doing it again.
- Follow @dabejar on twitter
- See his work online at danielbejar.com or in person until March 16th at the Systemic Risk show at NURTUREart Gallery, 56 Bogart St., Brooklyn NY or at SiteSantaFe
“Crown Heights Is Magnificent And So Are You.” -Olivia Lane
This mural on Eastern Parkway in the Crow Hill section of Crown Heights was sponsored by the Crow Hill Community Association. Check back soon for interview with vice president Stacey Sheffy
photos by me
ArtRoots: Did the Heidelberg Project always have support from the community, foundations, & government?
Amanda Sansoterra: Goodness no! The Heidelberg Project is 26 years old this year. The community and government despised the project and parts of it were torn demolished, twice. Oh, probably within the past 8 years we have begun to gain support from the community and within the past few years we’ve been recognized by amazing foundations. We’ve Always had a major following of supporters who adore and respect the project and see it’s value.
AR: How did Tyree initially fund the project?
AS: It was all out of pocket.
AR: Was this Tyree’s first major community project? Was it yours?
AS: Major…yes. Me as well. I’ve not been involved with a project as big as the Heidelberg Project…
AR: How do you measure the success of this project?
For many of us here at the Project, we measure success by the stories that are shared with us of inspiration, hope and change and by witnessing these things ourselves.
AR: In many ways HP achieved things the government failed to do…create good public space, increase safety, etc. Were these goals Tyree had in mind when he started the project?
AS: Absolutely. The fact that the city was not doing anything to better his neighborhood, prompted Tyree to make the change he wanted to see for himself.
step 1: whitewashing the previous mural
ArtRoots: How do you plan a mural?
Remy Holwick: I plan in Photoshop— I shoot photo-reference for everything. I manipulate the photos into the composition by cropping, duplicating, and cloning. Then I grid the image out— usually into 1 foot squares. I don’t use pencil, but I do use a lot of sharpies doing the layout. If I’m working on a large canvas, I’ll use pencil rather than sharpie, because gesso accepts pencil but primer on a wall responds much better to sharpie, and with glare, sharpie shows up better.
Doing the giant grid is actually harder than the drawing— finding ways to measure and park out 200 or more square feet of grid is hard! I measure along the top and bottom first and work inwards with a measuring tape, and rather than drawing whole lines, I make dots at the 1’ by 1’ marks. Otherwise, it would get complicated fast and you’d have to commit to painting over those grid lines— not worth it!
step 2: layout the entire composition— 11x13 feet, 4 figures— in sharpie
AR: What tools do you use?
RH: If it’s a canvas, I prime it. If it’s right on a wall, I prime it. You can use the drying time to poke around at the drawing. I use black house paint for the outlines and black fills, and diluted oil paint (with liquin, not oil, for a super quick dry and luminous, washy look) for everything else color wise. Having an assistant to continuously be soaping up the oil paint brushes is key. I try to work one color at a time, but that almost never ends up being a hard-and-fast thing. If something looks wrong 2/3rds of the way through, and it needs a color you’ve already used, you GOTTA go back.
Oils blend well, but liquin reduces the opacity a lot and the drying time drops dramatically— from 3 days down to 30 minutes for some colors. It’s toxic, so make sure you’re ventilated, and it’s not terribly cheap… it cost well over a hundred dollars to get the mural pictured up on the wall.
…it took a lot of sharpie…
AR: How do you find a location for the work? Or does finding the location come first?
RH: The locations have to come first. I am on probation— if I just walked up to a wall and started painting, I’d go to jail, and as a mom, business owner, and all-around good girl, I can’t do that. If I don’t have a wall, I work on a 10 foot or larger canvas.
step 3: mix oil paints. LOTS of oil paints!
AR: Your advice for somebody who wants to paint murals?
RH: Don’t get intimidated— it’s hard to find a wall, so start smaller and solidify your ideas. “Do” the concept to death— seriously, do one version small, then another one, then another… and work your way up to the wall. If an idea is great, you can stand doing version after version while you refine it and look for the right space!
step 5: start adding color
AR: Best part about mural painting is?
RH: It’s huge, and you can’t look away. It’s public. It’s not for sale, so you’re not motivated by money. There’s a great Scott McCloud thing about defining art where he asserts something like, art is anything made without a thought to motivation aside from pure creative drive. I think murals are a great way to approach that ideal of “ART”, in all caps, because money is such a major motivator, and since you can’t usually sell a mural, it is instantly removed from the equation.
… more color…
AR: What are you inspired by?
RH: My dad was a very early street artist. He is my hero. I alternately just want to continue the mission he was on, which really was one of making that great art as defined above, and to define myself as separate from him— my own artist, in his tradition, and by his ideals. Also, I’m really interested in sex! I know that sounds dumb, but so much art is implying something sexual in the way men and women are portrayed, but it’s almost as though no one wants to visually “say” the word— I like going there! I think it’s fun and it frees you up to actually ask what the work is about BESIDES sex, for a change— like, okay, we get that there are two pretty hip kids having sex on that carpet— now, what is it saying culturally? Personally?
All images courtesy of Rachel Waniewski
“It was more about my name, you know, BG183 that was the key. It was the message of me being out there like how a mayor is gonna run for mayor and he’d post his name everywhere.”-BG183, member of Tats Cru
“Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.”
“You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.”
“Why is it that it would be…left to an activist street culture to remember the people who died in hurricane Katrina?”-Dread Scott, Artist
- Dread is inspired by Basics by Bob Avakian, and the work of Carrie Mae Weems, Fred Wilson, Hans Haacke, Leon Golub, Cai Guo Qiang, Wafaa Bila
- See his work at the Austrian Cultural Forum New York starting January 23rd through April 22nd. For more info visit: http://www.dreadscott.net/category/news
All images courtesy of Dread Scott
“You have to be confident in what you’re going to do. That’s better than any education you can get.” - Cameron Sinclair, Executive Director of Architecture for Humanity
- Cameron is inspired by Samuel Mockbee and Banksy
- There are a ton of ways to get involved with Architecture for Humanity! From joining a local chapter, to posting your designs for a better community, or applying for a design fellowship, and even fundraising, you can definitely find a way to pitch in.
- Follow @casinclair on twitter
“Instead of waiting for someone to give me money… or a space, you go outside and see what …resources you do have that are free and available.” -Shantell Martin
- Want to see Shantell in action? She’ll be teaching a drawing class in Minneapolis (June 5th-8th) and speaking in NYC (March 30th) and Austria (May 16th - 18th)
- Want to intern for Shantell? Message @Shantell_Martin
- Shantell says if you want to become an artist don’t wait for funding. Throw a drawing party at your house, a show in your friend’s living room, and start drawing on your shoes or the wall down the street!