Gratitude, Joy, Oneness and Service (Day 663 – Day 668)
On Sunday, I was wrapped up in my own world. I didn’t see the news until late in the evening. I had things to do for my upcoming move, and the only time I had for Facebook was to deal with a difficult decision to ban someone from a memorial group who could not stop himself from attacking another member. I know that anger masks deep pain, and so it was a difficult decision to exclude someone when I advocate working with Oneness. But no pain justifies continuously acting out on another person. Without seeking to understand, he would lash out and, like children in a schoolyard, others would join in the cyber-bullying with a barrage of words. When did we stop listening to one another, and engaging in dialogue? When did we start becoming so incensed by different opinions?
I was exhausted and I just needed a break. I decided to take a trip to South London, on a mission to give an energetic ‘au revoir’ to a London friend, who isn’t here to do it in person.
He is the artist of one of my favourite pieces of street art that was tagged immediately after it was painted. When I first went to photograph it, right across the face of the character was scrawled in black paint: “Gay.”
I have always been drawn to words on walls and they have the power to offer an alternative perspective that seldom gets expression, and to remind us that there are other ways of being. Lately, there has been a lot of tagging of streetart in London, by graffiti writers. But this tag hurt me, because it wasn’t a staking of territory or a protest against gentrification – which are a part of the street art/graff/community dialogue. No, this was HATEFUL.
The sexuality of the artist, the shop owner and the property owner are not something I know. If I don’t know, then it is likely that the graff didn’t know. Most likely, this was not an overt personal attack directed at someone believed to be gay. But it is still a hateful act. It reflects a culture that allows words about sexuality to be used in a derogatory manner, as a means of bullying.
This morning I was watching the news as I was doing chores. A very popular American sitcom came on. Three times in the first five minutes, I heard characters use the word ‘Gay’ as an insult to their friend’s manhood. I don’t watch this program, but it hit me in the heart, as I saw how they were hiding behind ‘comedy’ to perpetuate the acceptability of this form of bigotry. Bigotry and bullying is not righteous, hip, edgy or funny.
Like feminists, the LGBTQ community has made gains in the UK, Canada and now America but backlash ensues, in subtle and not so subtle ways. Yes, in many countries, the LGBTQ community faces more open hostility than in America, but hidden hostility and backlash is perhaps more difficult to fight because it is so hard to identify, define and achieve consensus.
Perhaps if any good has come of the Orlando murders, it is highlighting the backlash against the LGBTQ community, just as the Montreal Massacre did for feminists in Canada. Some will try to silence the dialogue and will point to the changes in the law that give rights to the oppressed. “Stop complaining,” they will say. We must not be silenced. In the Montreal Massacre, the attack was characterised as the act of a madman and not the targeted attack of women in a previously ‘male domain’ of engineering science. I am grateful that in the 27 years since L’École Polytechnique, leaders have learned that mass murder can be the act of a madman and be a targeted hate crime as well.
You may wonder what took me to see that particular piece of art, on this particular Sunday, before I knew about the Orlando shootings. And, I wonder as well. For months, I have had this draw to go photograph the piece again and because I am leaving, I reasoned it was now, or never. For some reason, I felt (or maybe just hoped?) that the piece had been cleaned up by one of the artist’s friends.
When I got there, I had to wait a half hour for the shop to close. As I waited, I had a moment of stillness watching the evening sky as the quality of light changed with the weather. It was beautiful.
When the shutter finally came down, I saw that although the art had been tagged with a graff’s name, the hateful tag across the face had been removed. I let out a “Yay!” and explained my delight to the manager. We admired the piece together for a few moments and commented on the craftsmanship of the details, before he was on his way. He took my hand and said he hoped we would meet again. Do not tell me that street art does not bring people together.
It gave me so much joy! And as I delighted in seeing the piece restored to its glory (save for the graff tag that happens on the street), it started to rain. And then, it turned to a downpour. When I lived in India, I celebrated the monsoons, and standing in the downpour in South London, for a moment, I felt that the world was rejoicing along with me, at the sight of one less hateful thing.
I am grateful to the artist, and to all street artists. These artists infuse our communities with love and light through the beauty of their art. They are an integral part of creating the new story of Oneness and Life.
Knowing that I’m leaving London and may not see the artist for a very long time, I am grateful that I was able to create a happy memory, re-visiting the piece. I believe that there are forces that are trying to extinguish the light and love in the world and they not only perpetuate violence, but they also rob the hope and faith-in-humanity of people of good intention. With this moment a part of my day, I later learned of the horror of Orlando, and I did not despair. I was able to send Reiki as a service to the victims and their families and, because it felt right to do so, to the artist that had painted that shutter. I was unable to sleep; I have rarely felt the “pull” of the recipients so strongly as I did that night. The world needs so much healing.
I know that many people struggle to find meaning at times like this. I don’t pretend to have any answers, but for me, I have learned that the only way to combat division and bigotry is through Oneness. Attacking members of a religion who have perverted and selectively edited the words of their Prophet (Peace be upon him) to justify bigotry and murder will itself be a backlash against a whole religion. It will not end the culture of bigotry. I don’t know what will end bigotry in our world, other than a growing movement of Oneness. But, if there is anything I know, as a crafter of words, it is this: our words have power.
As the ancient yogis told us: thought becomes word and word becomes deed. If we want less targeted murders, less workplace discrimination, less religious, gender, sexuality and politically based violence, we can begin by observing and altering the language we use, to change the way we think. We must be mindful of our rhetoric in response to this horrible event. Together – and only together – we can buff out hate.
For what are you grateful, today?
We continue our series on individuals making a difference in the world, with the skills they possess. As a Valentine’s Day special, we feature LA based street artist WRDSMTH.
Each day, WRDSMTH touches hearts around the world with a new WRD – spray painted images of a vintage typewriter, topped with his messages of motivation, love and humour. WRDSMTH mixes a sense of nostalgia with pop culture in his art and for a world lost in the complexity of the “extreme present,” his WRDs evoke a simpler time – perhaps imagined – when we were all a little kinder to ourselves and one another, and when love was a committment for life.
Every piece, in its own way, feels like a love letter, sent out to the world, from the artist.
WRDSMTH calls his WRDs “indelible messages” which he “tattoos on walls” in cities around the world. WRDs can be found in Los Angeles, New York, New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Diego, West Palm Beach, London, Paris, Edinburgh, and Melbourne. His art is best experienced in its public context where its position in the surrounding environment adds another layer of meaning. However, for those unable to see it in situ, clever use of social media enables worldwide followers to participate in the daily experience, with photographs of his work appearing on his Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr accounts.
Hoping to achieve a modest following of 500-1,000 followers, WRDSMTH currently has over 75,000 followers on Instagram and the number continues to grow, daily.
We emailed WRDSMTH in LA, to ask him a little more about his work and his motivations for being a force for positive messaging in the world.
TTDOG: In a recent article you were quoted as saying: The aim of art is “to inspire, entertain, or woo other individuals” Are you trying to woo us, Mr. WRDSMTH? As my father would say: What are your intentions for us?
WRDSMTH: No and yes. I recently used the word woo mainly to refer to the romantic WRDs I put up all over the world, as opposed to the motivational ones which inspire and the funny ones which I hope entertain. However, yes, I am trying woo people with my words. My intention is to affect. Period.
I hope my work makes people ponder, smile, and maybe laugh. The notion that people turn a corner and see a piece of mine or are driving by one and my WRDs affect them in a positive manner, makes me happy and, in turn, adds fuel to the creative fire. If a percentage of those people notice the name attached to my pieces and at some juncture look me up, fall into the rabbit hole that is the my body of work, and possibly become followers/fans, then my wooing was successful.
TTDOG: Why do you think positive WRDs from an anonymous stranger are so important to people and why is that craving so universal?
WRDSMTH: When I began WRDSMTHing, I just felt that this city (L.A.) and the world needed some positivity. I think it’s easy in this day and age to feel negative toward current events, politics, and even most of what’s deemed entertainment these days. I shy away from those heavily debated topics and instead choose to focus on the individual – the person that happens upon my WRDs – and, again, I aim to affect them in a positive manner.
And even though my messages reach a wide audience, I think people find the words compelling because of that one-on-one experience. I often am told people feel like my WRDs are speaking directly to them, which is a huge compliment, in my book. And the mystery of who is putting all these WRDs all over the world definitely works in my favor, which is a big reason why I retain my anonymity.
Born in Ohio, WRDSMTH moved to Chicago, where he crafted words into slogans designed to sell dreams through consumption. Realising that time waits for no one, he risked all to chase his own dream of being a writer and moved to Los Angeles. Following a very successful run, in 2013, he again turned his craft to selling a dream, with his WRDs. This time, it was the most cherished but often abandoned dream – fulfillment.
Despite his startlingly rapid rise as an international street Artist, WRDSMTH remains dedicated to his first passion: writing. He writes, every day. For solitary people of letters, his WRDs offer not only a dose of motivation but a sense of community.
TTDOG: One of your most famous WRDs says: “Aspire to Inspire Others and the Universe Will Take Note.” In what way do you feel the universe has taken note – for yourself as well as for those who have been inspired by you?
WRDSMTH: ‘Aspire’ has definitely become a mantra for WRDSMTH, but that’s because those words are so in line with what I aim to do and aimed to do from the get-go. I began this endeavor speaking to all the creative individuals doing time in Hollywood. However, I quickly realized it wasn’t just about those doing time here, but those doing time everywhere. Everyone has a dream – whether it be a creative one, a productive one or a romantic one.
We all aim to inspire others and if that intent is truly altruistic, I firmly believe the universe will take note. And hopefully good karma ensues. My success has been unexpected. I actually started WRDSMTHing for me because I needed an active hobby. The fact that my WRDs are resonating with so many is thrilling on a daily basis, which is why ‘Aspire’ is a mantra. The messages I get from fans and followers are amazing and are always welcome. I love hearing how I have inspired and motivated others. I also love hearing how my romantic WRDs have helped bring people together.
In a city and in an era where ‘authenticity’ is simply an attribute for branding, the nostalgic warmth and sometimes gut wrenching honesty of his art hints at the character of the man behind the WRDs.
TTDOG: Is the open hearted, playful, and vulnerable quality of your WRDs an extension of your professional writing, or is the anonymous WRDSMTH an alter ego that doesn’t get space for expression in your other writing? Why put yourself at risk, in a renegade medium? What impact does the medium and your anonymity have on what you communicate?
WRDSMTH: Both. I think the most compelling stories in any medium are open-hearted, amusing, and vulnerable. At least my favorite novels, movies, TV shows, and music have those characteristics. My professional work includes novels and screenplays and I follow that path, along with a strong belief that “less is more” in all my writing. WRDSMTH is such a merger of worlds for me. I used to work as a copywriter in advertising, so I think I understand how to be effective and affect with as few words as possible. However, WRDSMTH is not like advertising in that I have the creative freedom to say what I want with no agenda or boundaries. That is refreshing and addictive. As far as the risk in a renegade medium . . . isn’t that a vital ingredient in most success stories?
While affirmation is a great drug, I was not seeking it when I started WRDSMTHing and I always say I’d still be doing what I do even if I only had 500 followers. I will always say what I want to say and will always express myself in a myriad of personal and vulnerable ways because that’s what writers do. Hemingway once said “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” I love that. Another mantra of mine that I penned is, “Do it for yourself and hope that what you do resonates with others.” I guess where Hemingway and WRDSMTH intersect is where my WRDs are born. The medium of street art seems to add a level of cool to my words.
The action of putting pieces up at all hours of the night while dancing a line of legality romanticizes the words to a great degree. There’s a difference between potentially reading “You got this. You know you do.” on a motivational poster or “You are amazing. You deserve amazing.” in a greeting card, versus seeing those words on a wall on the corner of Sunset and LaBrea. And the action of taking a picture of those pieces and Instagramming them or sending them to a loved one is more meaningful in this day and age of texting and social media. However, while I am aware of all this, it doesn’t change or alter what I put out there. My WRDs come from my life and my experiences, not from the expectation or hope that they will be Instagrammed or forwarded.
Specific laws, enforcement and penalties for street art vary from city to city and from country to country. In some cases, artwork is specifically commissioned or ‘permissioned.’ WRDSMTH’s installation at SYNDCTD creative agency in LA, and in Lululemon’s shop windows are recent examples of such work. Without such permissions, the question of legality is always a concern for artists painting in public spaces.
While second guessing what the law would consider ‘acceptable placement’ for his street art, WRDSMTH has stated that he never paints on private property in order to have his WRDs seen. Sensing what he terms a renaissance occurring in street art in Los Angeles, he points to promising changes on the horizon. Some city council members have begun to work with street artists to attempt to provision public spaces for art, as part of urban rejuvenation and beautification.
Not to detract from the LA cool of WRDSMTH, the street artist, his midwestern kindness goes beyond messages of love, humour and inspiration. A proponent of the Pay it Forward philosophy, WRDSMTH gives of his time and notes that most of his sales have some component of charitable giving attached to them. In 2015, he gave time and artwork to several causes including after school programs for LA children, local youth centres, the city’s homeless and for breast cancer research.
TTDOG: You help and inspire many people. Who has helped and inspired you, along the way? Who helps you these days, and what inspires you to stay positive and keep going, even on those days when things look bleak?
WRDSMTH: I am inspired by a lot of things: Friends. Family. Love. Music. Sunsets. Sunrises. Wanderlust. A really great burger. Cookies and mint chocolate chip ice cream. Honesty. Laughter. Great conversation. Really good wine. Art in all its forms.
Someone once said, “Life is a struggle. But every now and then, we stumble upon something magical and it just makes everything all right.” My list includes things I often stumble upon – and they just make everything all right for me. Maybe for some, my art is something stumbled upon. At least I hope it is. And I stay positive by immersing myself in the things I love, by surrounding myself with people who challenge me, and by finding the good hidden in all the bleak on this big blue marble we are spinning on.
TTDOG: Many people want to make the world a better place but feel that they alone can’t make a difference or that they don’t have the skills, talent or opportunity. What would you say to them?
WRDSMTH: Find a way. There’s always a way.
TTDOG: What do you wish people would ask you about yourself or your work, but never do?
WRDSMTH: I like when people ask me my name instead of calling me Word or Mister Smith. I enjoy when fans inquire about my other writing. I like when they ask about my muse(s). I love when they ask if they can buy me a drink. I’d like more single girls to ask if I am single. I also wish people would ask me what my favorite palindrome is. The answer: racecar.
Heads up, ladies: WRDSMTH is single!
As is our practice at TTDOG, there is one final question for the artist:
For what are you most grateful and where do you find your greatest joy?
I am most grateful for my life – the amazing and baffling opportunity to spend some decades living and making a mark in the world. And my greatest joy is knowing that my work, words, and WRDs are reaching and affecting people all over the world.
WRDSMTH’s original artworks have been sold at Julien’s Auctions, Art Share-LA, In Heroes We Trust, Q Art Gallery, The Gabba Gallery, Stone Malone Gallery, and LabArt. He currently has prints, photos and wearable art for sale at Paper and Fabric.
To learn more about WRDSMTH and be inspired by his daily artwork, follow him at:
Email WRDSMTH at: WRDSMTHinLA@gmail.com
Today the world learned that we had lost an innovator, an artist, and a one man social movement. David Bowie died at the age of 69, after an 18 month battle with cancer.
The world just celebrated his birthday 3 days ago, and he released a new album just this week. Very much in the news this week, if ever there was an icon of artistic and philosophic reinvention and vitality, it was David Bowie. And so, London awoke this morning with shock as Bowie’s son confirmed his death on Twitter.
This evening, a fellow artist asked if this was the Princess Diana of the social media era. I suppose in some ways, the response was the same. In vitally important ways, it was different.
Like Diana, the world reacted with shock at the death of an icon. Like Diana, tributes poured in. Like Diana, crowds gathered to pay tribute and had to fight through paparazzi to do so. But unlike the death of Diana, each person had a personal relationship with some aspect of what made Bowie an icon.
A musical innovator, actor, writer, filmmaker, fashion trend setter, philosopher, gender bender, revolutionary, sexual politician, businessman and master of reinvention, Bowie meant something different to each of us. Working across media and pushing boundaries and preconceptions, one thing one could say about him was that he embodied the word “artist.”
And it is this difference that made our experience so unlike that of the death of Diana.
Like all artists, Bowie comforted the outsider by providing acceptance and a way forward. And for those who had grown complacent, Bowie disquieted them with his in-your-face refusal to follow rules. I venture to guess that Bowie appealed to the teenager in us all. And in our teenage years, whether real, or metaphorical, Bowie helped us individuate.
It is impossible to compare him to Diana. Diana was a fantasy of an ideal we might want to be or a grotesque version of the person we would never want to be. Bowie told us that it was okay to be whoever we already were and whomever we wished to become. Diana was a princess, mourned at the locked gates of a palace. Bowie was an artist, mourned on the street, at the foot of a tribute, painted by artist Jimmy C.
Being in the presence of art provides a doorway into something beyond ourselves and for a moment, the art of Jimmy C, held open a doorway to heaven so we could say farewell to a childhood friend. Tonight, an artist, provided the space for us all to come out into the streets and come together to mourn a fellow artist, to share a memory, to sing a song, or to lay flowers at the bottom of an iconic image.
And together, we knew that the world would shine a little less brightly without the Starman.
I am grateful to Jimmy C for providing a space for public mourning and celebration. I am grateful to David Bowie for David Bowie who let me know I wasn’t the only alien in the world. I am grateful for his music, which inspired my own writing, and I am grateful for his gender and sexual politics that helped me find my own way to a landscape with a varied topography but horizons too distant to be relevant. His dance music brought me joy as a young adult and it is clear that I, like many, felt a sense of being kindred spirits with him. I went to Brixton tonight for myself and for all my friends in North America who wish they could have been with me.
For what are you grateful?
Before Plin left to go back to LA, we had a chat about his newest shutter piece in South London. I told him that I wished I could paint but I have no talent as a visual artist. And then I remembered that I had taken a “seeing drawing” course a hundred years ago. I found that drawing helped me to really look and to see what was before me. By the end of the course, some of what I drew actually looked like well…what was in front of me. I never really learned to draw, but it did help to look and deeply “see.”
Plin (bless him) was ever the encourager. He said: “Everyone is creative in some way.”
As a child, I was creative. I made up stories and plays and sang rock operas with my friends and by the time I was 12, I was writing poetry in both English and in French. What seemed to matter, however, was that I was good in Math.
A couple days after my last conversation with Plin, I went looking for the piece in South London. It took me two trips to find it. On that second trip, I was processing a nasty text message from a man in my life, “The Photographer”. He had been hanging around for months and, although charming at first, was proving himself to be arrogant and increasingly, belittling.
Dealing with him was leaving me feeling bad.
“Never mind,” I thought. I was determined to find that lovely shutter piece by Plin and as I tried to match the sidewalk and awning in the only existing photo of the painting to the world I saw around me, I thought warmly about Plin. I had met him only briefly a couple of times but I always walked away from the encounters feeling more able to be myself than I had with most people. He brought out a playful side of me, and, I was happy about who I was.
When I found his piece, it had been painted with a hateful tag. The café owner told me it had happened almost immediately – and was possibly the work of some locals feeling territorial and jealous.
I don’t know why I am recalling this story today. I am learning to follow my intuition calling from the Oneness of the collective unconscious and my mind has been called to that mural several times this week. Maybe the hateful tag was a cry from the community for something that needs healing. Maybe people that have never been given the gift of art do not know how to relate to it and don’t recognise that they, too, have the ability to be “creative in some way” or maybe when they expressed the essential part of themselves from which all art comes, they faced ridicule.
We learn by the modelling we receive. Those who have been abused either grow up accepting it, or they project it outward, until a new model comes along and, in time, a new way of being can be learned. Maybe that tag was a sign that more art and more love is needed in that part of London, not less of it. I don’t know. But, since it is calling to me, I will include that part of London in my healing service tonight.
Standing in the fading afternoon light and seeing all of Plin’s beautiful work tagged up so hatefully was heartbreaking. Feeling sadness over his work allowed me to get in touch with my other pain. On the way home that night, I sent a response by text message to “The Photographer” and I ended things with him.
Later that week, when I was stuck with a block in my writing, I pulled out my coloured ball point pens and “drew” a stick figure “portrait” of Plin that I hoped would make him laugh. It was not as elegantly executed as a 5 year old could achieve, and yet, when I stepped back and looked at it, to me, it actually captured a sense of his essence.
Children, before conditioned, understand and live from their essence. Life is creative play. How they view and value that essence and whether they continue to play and experiment has a lot to do with their modelling.
Today I am grateful for encouraging models. I am grateful for the kindness of Plin and for the opportunity to witness the juxtaposition of his beautiful mural with that hateful tag just as I was dealing with the abusive Photographer. If I hadn’t been there, with the confluence of all those forces, it might not have been so clear – hateful tags on our art and our essence are never to be tolerated.
I am grateful for my friend and painter, Michael Frey, who encourages me to just have fun with visual imagery and laughs with me as I learn to draw like a child. I know that he has loved me through my best and worst times and he accepts and loves the essence of who I am.
I am grateful for Anna Laurini, the painter, who didn’t laugh at me when I said I would like to try to learn to paint. She told me where to buy paint and brushes in London and advised me which ones to buy, as a beginner. She also encourages me to just have fun. Whenever I see her now, she asks me how my painting is going.
I haven’t started painting; I bought a sketch pad and some sketching pencils and I let myself just have fun again, recently. I created a stick figure “portrait” of my friend, Ax. I did not try “seeing drawing” but just played and drew with abandon. It was nothing short of a disasterpiece, but it was a joy to create.
Sometimes we have to remake our childhood and learn to play again, in order to accept and love the essence of who we are. I am not a visual artist; I am a writer. But as long as I am still breathing, there is still time to play.
For what are you grateful today?
An explosion of colour characteristic of his vibrant portraits, the fireworks of bonfire night was the perfect backdrop for the opening of an exhibition by one of the most energetic and vibrant artists to have painted on London streets and graced the gallery scene in awhile.
Visitors to the opening were able to chat with Mr Stinkfish about his work and see the photos of people who have captivated him in his travels and subsequently become the subjects of his portraits.
Within each portrait is contained a tale of the momentary captivation of heart and mind, captured in a photograph, and carried in the heart of the painter through to completion of his portrait. Often unaware of the photographer, these interesting moments with intriguing strangers are immortalised in a combination of stencil and freehand paint on canvas.
Many times, Stinkfish has been asked about his choice of colour palette and over again, he replies that it has come organically. Perhaps by considering the indigenous and folk art of Central America, including Colombia and Mexico, one can see that in the context of this art history with their vibrant reds, oranges and yellows, the equally vibrant palette of Stinkfish, a man of the streets, is organic to cultures from which he comes.
These delightful portraits, refreshingly dazzling to the London public are very accessible to aspiring collectors, evidencing the truth of Stinkfish’s ethos of wishing not to exploit his success but merely to be able to continue to make art available to as wide an audience as possible, particularly through the public gallery of the Street.
The exhibition runs through 6 December. Pure evil gallery at 96/98 Leonard Street is open daily from 10-6.
Wednesday night, Graffictti, a group show by Mexican artists Said Dokins, Mazatl, Fusca, Ácaro opened in London. A short exhibition, the show runs through Sunday at the newly opened Hoxton Gallery at 47 Old Street.
Just three months old, the gallery is a large space in a converted grocery store, set in the heavily trafficked Old Street footpath between Whitecross Street and the Old Street tube station. Well lit by day with large windows providing ample light, the gallery invites visitors to a voyage of discovery. Although the ethos of a pop-up exhibition is to be a rough around the edges and “underground” vibe, it was admittedly hard work to find a gallery staff member to provide information.
Despite the gallery experience, this is a must see exhibition. They works are a delight, living up to Hoxton Gallery’s promise to:
“…act as a point of artistic exchange between Mexican artists and the London street art community, showcasing emerging talents…(that) reflect the changing landscape of contemporary Mexico and its deep relation with traditional techniques”
The beauty of Said Dokins’ calligraphy on walls in London is matched by the works in the gallery.
Photographs of works of writing performed with long exposure photography and the tracing of light through space is beyond compare.
Without an explanation of the work, one might presume that the work has been photoshopped rather than produced by photography and meditative focus. In essence, Dokins has managed to leave a trail of perfectly formed letters with light, despite the letters being seen only in his mind’s eye.
Precision of line and detail is reflected in the prints of master carver and painter, Mazatl. His works remind one of the long tradition of graphic art seen in woodcuts dating back to early medieval times.
Beautifully rendered images of death, birth and political repression are conveyed via the natural world and connect with the viewer in a visceral way. A truly gifted artist and craftsman, his images are immediate and engaging. One is entranced by both the detail of line and the overall realism generated.
Juxtaposed against the precise detail of Mazatl, is the delicate terra cotta blush on the three faces of the woman from whose heart emerges a powerful horse. Her illuminated, sun kissed skin offers both warmth and a complex set of imagery that seems at once both familiar and foreign.
Like Frida Kahlo, Fusca mixes what has been termed surrealism with symbols from indigenous and folk art. Fusca’s work evokes the art of the Pueblo people both in the choice of colour palette and in imagery.
The above street piece of the masked figure who has tamed Mazatl’s wild boar is reminiscent of masked Hopi snake dancers, and the horse emerging from the heart reminds the viewer of the central role of the horse in indigenous culture of Northern Mexico and of the role that the Pueblo people played in the development of the horse trade in Northern Mexico and what has become the American Southwest.
Beautiful, captivating and dream like, Fusca’s art takes one on a journey of myth and legend both historical and beyond time.
With political imagery and detailed line reminiscent of Mazatl and a surrealist treatment that gives primacy to the natural world, Ácaro completes the show by evidencing a wide artistic range in the works exhibited.
Art prices range from accessible to that suitable for a more serious amateur collector. The group show closes Sunday and while one should be prepared to really work for an inquiry with gallery staff, the show is one not to miss.
BSMT launched the space with a first contemporary street art show, Underhand. The show was a smash success with art by a range of international street artists.
A third exhibition of Street Art, Doing Lines, with Captain Kris, Obit, The Real Dill and Tony Boy Drawings, opens this Friday, 6 November.
In an art community that is often suspicious of the gallery world and is rife with stories of artists failing to be paid for their sales, what makes this gallery able to command such talented artists in such early days of their positioning in the art world? It appears to come down to credibility as fellow artists, good intentions and a sense of community.
Lara Fiorentino, the gallery owner, is an artist herself, with more than a decade of both fine art and professional decorative painting on her CV. Understanding the art work as well as the disposition of the artist gives her the ability to forge relationships with artists from a wide range of styles and backgrounds. It is her high-end decorative painting skills that helped her transform a dark and dank basement into the beautiful and inviting gallery it is today. But it is perhaps her intuive skill as an artist and a business owner that has served her best.
“I just felt it when I saw this place,” Lara Fiorentino, the gallery, owner said of the BSMT location. “There was no staircase, we had to enter through the landlord’s premises, there was water dripping down and you couldn’t even see the whole space. The walls were bare. It was a mess.” When asked whether it was her ability as an artist to visualise the potential of the space she said: “Yes, I suppose. But I just felt it. And it all comes down to good energy.”
Friends of Lara have said of her that she possesses a rare quality – she embodies the gestalt of the art of the time. It is this good energy which she brings to her endeavours and which makes them a success. An artist herself, she aims to provide a positive creative space for ideas to come to fruition.
“I couldn’t do it without Greg,” she hastens to add. “And Greg couldn’t do it without me. We are a great team.”
Greg Key, her partner, is a Street Art curator with a background as an entertainment and hospitality industry professional. He has spent the past several years building relationships in the Street Art community and gaining the trust of the artists whom he and Lara now represent, at the gallery.
I spoke with Greg before the first group show, Underhand, about his motivation for putting on the show and for donating the gallery commissions for that show to the homeless charity St. Mungos.
“It’s about giving back to the community,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of time hanging out on the street with artists, as they paint, and I’ve seen how people suffer on the streets. It’s only getting worse.” Regarding the artists, he said: “I want to give back to a great community of artists that has embraced me and accepted me as one of their own. They’re my friends. I want to do something special for them.”
Visiting The Gallery
Entering the gallery, there is a sense of ease and community. One is welcomed warmly by the curators and left to engage with the works of art alone or to engage in spirited dialogue with the curators, as one wishes. One gets the sense that the gallery, although a business, will succeed only by helping the artists to succeed in selling their work and by drawing in buyers to a world that is, in many cases, foreign to their own.
BSMT Space, located underground at 5 Stoke Newington Road in London has also filled 620 sq ft space, two alcoves and additional newly renovated room for the launch of a contemporary art collective and social movement, Food of War. The magazine, Funhouse, also launched at the space in October.
The recipe of good vibes and community seems to be working, with back to back bookings through to the end of year, foreign buyers clamouring for pieces, and celebrity gallery visitors like Gilbert and George making appearances at openings. This cozy space, creating community in the heart of Dalston, is well worth the visit.
Read about BSMT’s first exhibition of Street Art, Underhand
Read about BSMT’s second exhibition of Street Art, Death in Dalston
Read about BSMT’s third exhibition of Street Art, Doing Lines
Read about the launch of Food of War
I have had a difficult time getting my body clock back to this time zone but I am grateful that I have finally managed to sleep through the night.
(Cue: Hallelujah chorus)
I went out Saturday with a friend and a couple of drinks turned into the entire evening. It was great to see her. We spent the afternoon searching for particular pieces of street art and while it was largely unsuccessful, we did stumble upon this hot piece by the artist, Irony:
I am grateful that I had an evening out with my friend. It was impromptu, and we both have had a difficult time of it lately. It was nice to spend some time together and let our hair down.
And yet, when I paid my share of the bar tab, which really burned a hole (let’s be clear: incinerated) my weekly budget, I thought: “what a colossal waste of money”. On my way home, I came to a conclusion: I don’t want to do this anymore. It is no reflection on the company with whom I spent the evening, just the activity. When I lived in Canada and in New York, I didn’t drink at all. I remember my doctor asking me how much I drank and I answered her:
Me: “Oh, maybe one or two drinks”
Doctor: “Per day? Per week?”
Me: “Per year.”
I’m not judging anyone who drinks. I have one or two drinks with friends and enjoy it or even a glass of wine at home, occasionally. For most of my life in the UK, I haven’t participated in the recreational drinking that goes with socializing in this country.
Although I am an introvert, a part of me has desired a more vibrant social life and opportunities to connect. I’ve had a great summer, partying with interesting people – and that has largely not involved drinking a lot, on my part. I don’t need alcohol as a social lubricant and I am far more entertaining, witty, charming, vibrant, sexy, and fun without alcohol. I can see clearly now that it actually impedes my happiness. It increases my fatigue, and the sugar highs and the sugar lows lead to post alcohol depression as the organs work overtime to rid my body of the toxin. And, financially, it takes its toll and prevents me from being able to do other enjoyable activities by burning a hole in my pocket.
Yet, I have missed opportunities to connect with people who really stimulate me, intellectually. Whenever I have had more than my two drink limit, I have found myself fighting my own brain and not being as witty or charming as I am, normally. I couldn’t be myself, and, I like myself. If I don’t bring myself to the party, then what good is a party and an opportunity to connect?
I could regret the time lost in fatigue and the money spent, but there is no point. I consider it to be a kind of burning away of residual doubts. In the east, monks wear orange to signify the burning of the samskaras and the purification through fire. One burns with the pain of one’s attachments and desires until one has suffered enough to drop them and attach to something positive (like bliss, godhead, or whatever you want to call it). There is a reason that First Nations people, with a tradition of using hallucinogens in sacred ceremonies, supposedly labelled alcohol as “Fire-water”.
As I examine the present and make goals for the future, I am very aware of how we all just waste our lives by wasting our time. I attended a course hosted by my professional association a couple of days ago and one of our tasks was to do a life review.
One of the things under review was my love life.
I have been involved with a man for several months now. He is close to my age, a professional, attractive and shares similar interests. But as I looked at this relationship this week, I really found it to be, on balance, not adding anything positive to my life. He didn’t value me in the way I feel I should be valued. At best, we were just passing time. In reality, it was squandering my time.
I lit a match to the relationship today. I am grateful that I had the mixed experience of knowing him, of being my authentic self in relationship to him, of valuing myself and because I value myself, of moving on. Don’t feel sad for me. I have made room for something better, and I have great men in my life; friends. I am grateful to Kt-, the Gov, Pn-, Ao- G- and Lk- for their friendship and the gift of their masculine energies.
This informal life review has helped me gain clarity on where I am in my life and I do not wish to waste any more time, energy or money. I am grateful for the focus and direction that my life review has given to my tendency to be introspective.
I’ve had many small moments of Oneness this week with strangers and friends, but the one that stands out happened while I was on my own in Camden, taking some photographs. As I walked down the high street I saw a man (probably a bit down on his luck) stand and shout in the face of a panhandler. The panhandler had olive skin and appeared not to be of Anglo Saxon or Viking ethnicity. The man shouted for the panhandler to go back to his own country; to go home!
It took a few minutes to register what I was seeing. We all have our own views on panhandling, and there are laws around it in some places. However, there is often a difference between what is legal and what is morally right. Regardless of whether it is legal to panhandle, we don’t know this man’s story. We don’t know what hardships he might have had to face. All we can see is that he is willing to lower himself to panhandling, whether it is to buy his children food, to feed his addiction or to simply ““scam the compassionate. We just don’t know. And, whatever his story may be, there is no justification for intimidation and abuse.
By the time I was able to act, the abuser was gone. I was moved by compassion and although I had blown my budget for the week on a single night out, I found a couple of pounds at the bottom of my handbag and gave it to the man who had been abused and I reminded him that not everyone is like the abuser. I gave him a blessing and moved on. I was surprised to find that as I walked on, I was crying in the street. And even as I wiped the tears from my face, I thought: I am grateful that my heart is open enough to shed tears of compassion for this man.
Service has been delivered in small ways: helping keep children safe from falling from an open window, trying to help a friend get home safely, forgiving bitchy behaviour and lending an ear where needed. I also let someone off the hook for a promise they had made to me but now seem unable to keep. None of this is earth shattering but every pebble in a pond makes ripples.
While I was on the night-out with my friend, she slipped off to the ladies room, and a remix of a song to which I used to dance in my youth came on. I was not dressed for dancing. I was dressed for photography – trainers, leggings, and a rucksack. But, the music took me back to a happy time and I remembered my independent self dancing alone in nightclubs (incidentally….without alcohol).
I brought myself – solo and (by then) sober – to the party and I danced with Joy.
And so, I ask you:
For what are you grateful, this week?
Today feels like a good time to focus on gratitude.
I am grateful for fizzy drinks when my stomach is upset. I think the dodgy noodles with Kit last night was a bad idea.
I am grateful that I had the time, yesterday, to get to Shoreditch to photograph a few pieces. One piece I wanted to capture was gone. I felt sad. Whenever a beloved piece gets painted over, it feels like the loss of a friend. I have had a lot of loss this year: a friend’s suicide, two deaths in the family and the expectation of more to come as sickness hovers. Loss and attachment has been a challenge for me, since my mother got cancer when I was 19.
Street art is becoming a good yogic guru. When Fanakapan’s balloon animals were painted over, I wanted to cry. And, when I turned the corner to see one of my favourite Plin pieces gone forever, yesterday, I let out an audible gasp that could be heard down the street.
Street art’s temporary nature provides constant and unexpected reminders of the pain of attachment. There are only so many legal walls and it is the nature of the gallery of the street to be ever changing. It is the ephemeral nature of the art that makes it so vibrant and so precious. As with love, attachment is the very antithesis of the ethos of street art. One day, perhaps I will grow tired of pain, and relinquish all attachment. Until then, I am grateful that street art is my teacher.
That said, it was a joy to find a beautiful pink Plin piece, that is new to me. I had seen it posted on Instagram, and did a lot of research to finally track it down. The effort to find it makes me treasure it all the more.
My experience of Oneness this week is esoteric and difficult to express.
I have been roaming the streets at night, (jetlag) and I have turned my attention to the graffiti writers lately. In Vancouver, there isn’t a big street art scene, but taggers and graffiti writers exist everywhere.
I first noticed street art and graffiti with Jim Cummins, when I was about 15, in Vancouver. I was drawn to the words and messages left on the walls. I am a writer so words attract me. The words at that time were political, disruptive, and spoke to my own youthful frustration and desperate desire to retain my individuality, my idealism and to somehow make my own mark on the world. The youthful spirit of social change is different to the middle aged longing for legacy. Both are a way of leaving our mark, but it is the latter that strikes me as being focussed on the self, not the former.
I followed Jim Cummins’ band and his O.G. crew of street and graffiti artists, but never fully entered their world. I was busy being reluctantly indoctrinated at University, losing my capacity for independent thought, and my time to devote to writing. I read Thomas Pynchon at University but could only look through the window to “freedom”, as I was dragged into the machinery of testing and parroting other people’s theories.
Like the secret postal system in The Crying of a lot 49, graffiti has it’s own coded, symbolic language. As far as I understand, this symbolic language is used by graffiti writers to communicate to one another about safety and opportunity, much like the codes of the American traveller in the Great Depression: a secret story of an invisible world that falls between the cracks of society. It is the outsider’s insider language.
I have always felt more kinship with those who may have to pass through the ordinary world in order to earn a living but who really belong to the extraordinary world that exists between the cracks and, for some of us, goes beyond the physical world and into the invisible.
And so, as I sought out areas where the graffiti writers dominate, I touched, (as I do, Plin’s creatures) the secret language of the walls.
Like an archaeologist, I stood on the doorstep – on the outside of the outside – running my fingertips across the symbols. I was comforted to know that the 15 year old girl remains. She has been covered in the rubble of a collapsing empire, this past decade, but she has survived.
My service today is to give space on my own ‘wall’ to remember writers of all kinds and from all times.
It remains for me only to ask:
For what are you grateful, today?
On Thursday of this week we passed a milestone of another full month of gratitude!
This week my life is reflecting the inadequacies of relationships lived long distance and over text messaging. Sometimes, it is the best we have but nothing replaces the real world. Also, this week my overwhelming thought was: “Could I get through one week without unnecessary drama, emotional upheaval and seriously bad news?” We all go through phases in our lives that are difficult and I’m sure that in the middle of them, we do think – could I just have a respite, please?
I am grateful that I can get a flight back to Canada next weekend. I need to go back for business but also it will be important to see family. I have not seen them since May and things change with people’s health and I really want to spend some time with them. I don’t want to say more on that except that I am present enough to know that it is important I fly home.
I haven’t had a lot of time with my family over the past 20 years because I left Canada around 1994. But, I make as much time as I can to see them – certainly several weeks a year. It is difficult on me to travel with such a big time difference but I will just deal with the jet lag when I return and I’ll be fine by November, I hope.
It is when things happen to the people we love that we really lose tolerance for all the unnecessary drama in our lives.
Unnecessary drama is sometimes our own fault because of what we tolerate and we will continue to have it till we stop tolerating the behaviour that goes along with it. I am grateful for a hard lesson I learned in boundaries and compassion.
This week, I gave a second chance to the person who stood me up last week. I wasn’t sure I should, but I do believe in second chances.
We made arrangements again to meet for something that would help his business. There was very little in it for me. The day before we were meant to meet, he made a very poor joke. He joked that I had too much interest in him. (?!?) I felt his behaviour and his comment were arrogant and insulting. I let him know that his joke was not appreciated.
As WRDSMTH so eloquently put it (photo courtesy of @nixxnak)
As you may have already predicted, the next morning when we were supposed to meet, he cancelled again for a reason that made no sense. I got angry. This person wasted my time and wasted my energy and thereby did not respect me. That’s not okay. He took advantage of my compassionate nature and treated me as if I was less important than he is. But, as I sit with it, I see that the latter thought and my anger is simply ego. I know who I am, and I know we are not separate or better or worse. We just sometimes think that we are. And, I see that compassion is complex. I engaged with this person out of personal reasons. I had compassion for what seemed to be emotional suffering around disconnectedness. That suffering is long standing and would not have disappeared, nor would he have learned better social skills in the few weeks I had known him. If I really wanted to help alleviate the suffering of a person who was disconnected from others, I had to accept that his current repertoire of skills was lacking. If I am to help him, I need to accept him as he is, set boundaries to protect my energy, offer alternative ways of relating, and not punish him around the ways he fends off connection. I see now, that I really had bit off more than I had intended to chew, but I would do more harm than good by wading in and reinforcing old patterns for him and for me. The drama was not just because of bad behaviour on his part, but because of my response to it. As I sit with it, I see that I can still set and keep a boundary, have compassion and do what I can to help alleviate both of our suffering, with clear communication. I am grateful for the life lesson and although it took too long to learn it, I am grateful nonetheless, because I am becoming more nuanced in my approach to people who all live in shades of gray and who lead complicated lives with challenges that most of us cannot understand. I am grateful that I am learning my lessons more quickly and am being offered deeper ways of relating than I once would have. Joy this week came in spending time with Pn. We had a few drinks to send him off as he returns to his home in another country. I spent a few minutes of the evening speaking only to him. It was a nice few moments and I really wish we had had more of them. I like him so much as a person and I am really interested in knowing more about his art. I love finding his pieces in the street and watching them evolve. The pieces he has done in London are quite different from the pieces he has done in his home country (according to his instagram account) and I would love to see his work in his home country as well. He is such a gentle, kind, thoughtful and genuinely good person. He is filled with light. I don’t think anyone could meet him and not like him. Everything about him is an enigma but it really doesn’t matter, because he brings to the moment something that is so pure. I have only known him a little while and in a few encounters but I will miss him. I am grateful to have met him and for every moment I had with him. And, I am grateful for yet another difficult lesson in letting go. I’m not there yet and I’m sure that I will be spending time with his art for a long time to come. I think he’d be okay with that. And that brings me to Oneness. As you know, there is a special Oneness I have with that thing greater than myself which I get through looking at art. I engage with each artist’s work differently. Much like Alo has, Plin’s work has encouraged me to slow down and really look deeply. Intellectually, I continue to discover more depth in his work, the more I look. I can see beautiful paintings on the streets and appreciate and admire the styles. But I never feel invited to engage with them in the same way as I do with Plin’s characters. I was thinking about why is it I only touch his art? I’ve tried it with another artist and it just felt wrong. I felt that I was doing something wrong and that the artist would not like me touching their painting. But with Plin, there is a feeling of purity – not in the prim sense but in the sense of being stripped away of pretense and of being distilled to the essence. Perhaps there is a rawness to it, but his characters invite me in to their world. Whether they look fierce, or funny, or even a little sad, they talk to me before I can even talk to them, and when I see them, we are on an adventure together. I feel compelled to stop and share a bond with them through touch.
A little bitty from a gorgeous ditty by Plin in Shoreditch. This one looks sad, to me, because we miss you, already. Grateful for you and for your beautiful art, monsu_plin. #plin #monsuplin #monsu_plin #plyn #streetart #streetartlondon #londonstreetart #streetartla #lastreetart #losangelesgraffiti #losangelesstreetart #streetarteverywhere #outsiderart #urbanart #contemporaryart #graff #graffiti #graffla #grafftastic #rsa_graffiti #dsb_graff #dopeshotbro #tv_streetart #streetlife #tenthousandaysofgratitude A photo posted by Tania Campbell (@pinkstarpix) on
With Alo, I talk to his paintings. They often have tears and so I ask them why they’re crying and I try to ‘listen’ to the art to ‘hear’ an answer. I take time with Alo’s paintings. I once touched one to see if it was a painting or a paste up and I felt wrong for doing it. I love Alo. I’m not sure he’d mind but it didn’t feel right so I won’t do it again. With his work, I listen….I have not yet been able to hear a response, but some things take time.
Even with Fanakapan, whose work is so whimsical and often evokes happy childhood images, I engage differently. With Fanakapan, I hear music or rhymes. I see his work and I come away with a broad smile and singing aloud, but I never consider touching a piece.
Just a bit of fabulously delightful fanaka-fants by @fanakapan !! #fanakapan #heliumart #elephant #balloonart #streetart #streetartuk #streetartlondon #londonstreetart #urbanart #contemporaryart #graff #graffiti #grafftastic #tv_streetart #tv_streetart_ #dopeshotbro #rsa_graffiti #dsb_graff A photo posted by Tania Campbell (@pinkstarpix) on
I may soon become known as the crazy lady of Brick Lane who sings to and talks to and touches art. I don’t care. Engaging with art connects me to the artist and to the collective unconsciousness that each of them has channelled. Being in that collective unconsciousness gives me energy and I am grateful I have found a portal to it through engaging with art.
If you are unhappy, go and look at art.
Well, I guess that leaves service for this week…..I didn’t do anything earth shattering this week….because I have wanted to demonstrate how small things add up. I offered an interview to a couple of lesser known artists (not street artists) whose works I admire and one took up the offer…stay tuned. And, as a friend was marking a milestone, I gathered some people around him. The group was small on short notice, but I think it was exactly who was meant to be there. I think he was touched by knowing that people care. We all just want to be loved, in the end, and it is important to show our love every way we can. To me, if we act always from love, that is the greatest service we can do for one another.
So, it just remains for me to ask you:
For what are you grateful, today?
This month, Polish urban and contemporary artist, Noriaki, returned to London to create new street art pieces with local street artists in East London.
Some works are entirely new and in some cases, Noriaki has added his character “The Watcher” to already existing pieces, creating a dynamic conversation between artists. At the same time, Noriaki’s work will be exhibited at canal side late night bar and restaurant, Number90, in Hackney Wick.
Noriaki shared with me some of his thoughts on technique and ways of working at his opening night.
The collection “small size, Big Heart” showcases several different techniques from stencil to freehand spray paint to acrylic paint on canvas and the style ranges from street art characters to realism to abstract expressionism and contains subtle social commentary on man’s fleeting existence and on our naiveté in the face of climate change (“Help Me”).
Eschewing traditional art school training, he has explored and developed his own organic style of painting, learning what he needs to understand about working with his materials from the manufacturers of the paints and canvasses themselves.
Part mystic, Noriaki’s creative process seems dictated by the needs of the piece. He begins each piece with an idea and an action such as dabbing paint on the canvas and then he lets the piece reveal itself, using brushes, impromptu scraping implements and even his own body to discover what is being revealed in the process.
The collection for “small size, Big Heart” represents only a small part of Noriaki’s black and white oeuvre but the range of technique and styles is worth a trip to Number90 in Hackney Wick. Exhibition runs through end of September.