12 Questions: GILF!

By - Monday, May 5th, 2014

In reading your artist’s bio and statement, what stood out was that you consider yourself an ‘emerging’ artist. This has always been an interesting term, what do you think classifies emerging or emerged?
Being an emerging artist, for me, means I’m still in the early stages of my career. It revolves around introducing the public, curators, and gallerists to my work.

Also in your artists statement and Facebook page you constantly reference ideas of security, awareness, community and power – what draws you to these topics?
I look around me and I see all kinds of people succumbing to the ease of not giving a fuck. I feel like the phrase “I can’t make a difference so why bother?” is on repeat in everyone’s headphones. I draw attention to these issues to understand where we are as a society so I can continuously fine tune my message and be effective in opening eyes and create change through my work. I am inspired by the uninspired.

New York is a wild city. Among all of it’s changing faces the gentrification process is undoubtedly apparent, how do you think artists like yourself can make communities aware of the negative impact of these changes?
I’ve been struggling lately with putting wheatpastes and stencils up. I feel like street art aids in gentrification because it’s so fucking trendy. That blows for me because I’ve always worked to create dialogs about injustice, wealth disparity and similar issues. So my presence, as a street artist, in these neighborhoods directly contributes to all of the things I speak out against. Its been a challenging few months artistically to put it mildly. My street work has recently shifted towards installations. Even if these installations are taken down they live on on the Internet and the dialogs can continue there. Social media has been a great tool for aiding in these conversations. Creating work that addresses our communal challenges and sharing it with the world can really facilitate a dialog and can get people more active in their communities- so that’s what I choose to share.

I wanted to talk specifically about your clever and sprawling “gentrification in process” banner and caution tape around the city – what kind of reactions have you gotten from this work?
Gentrification can be a tricky term with which to take a public stance. Some people see it as a race issue and thus they believe I’m a hypocrite because I’m white. I find it to be a class struggle- and as an artist “surviving” on her art it’s very much affecting me and my community. I believe everyone can relate to this. That loud sucking sound where the middle class used to be? It reverberates all across the country and dare I say the world. I was pleasantly stunned when a friend said he had had 8 conversations within a week of the 5 pointz install about gentrification because it kept coming up. People want to discuss it- it’s on their minds. We’re all frustrated and want change.

What is your “perfect” NYC?
My perfect NY is an unsterlized NY. I want evolved grit, character, and hustle. In my utopic NYC there are ZERO 7-11s. There are zero strip malls built into soulless glass buildings. There are zero banks. We barter and trade. The roofs are green, we grow tons of food, people can afford to be innovative. Newtown creek is swimmable, not a toxic waste dump. Cab drivers aren’t racist. Cat calling is outlawed, punishable instantaneously by a punch in the face. Less douchebags, just level the meat packing district altogether- start over, make it a park. More Chinatown less Wall Street. More Strand book store less Starbucks. More community action, on that tip more community. An express L train. A referendum that bans corporate chain retailers from infiltrating residential neighborhoods. Zero McDonalds. More EBT friendly green markets. Bombed trains. More bikes. Less SUVs. Less boys, more men. Better schools. Less surveillance, less police, more art. Tax breaks for creatives. More trees. Less litter.

Your writings on curb-side TVs talk about the compliancy of being attentive to the media, and not the neighbourhood. How do you think artists can change the opinions of sheep?
The media is super manipulative. The ways in which advertising companies push us to buy shit we don’t need is super calculated. I use a lot of these methods in my tv take overs and my fine art to push ideas in the opposite direction. We’re easily influenced as a society- for me it’s important to find out who is doing the influencing, understand the motives and create an opposing effect. As an artist I work to undo all this brainwashing. I can’t stand by and see all of this bullshit continue without saying something. Silence is not my specialty. Whether people choose to pay attention or not is on them.

What have you found to be the most empowering aspect of being a female artist?
I get away with murder. Heels are the best disguise ever.

There’s a line in the Guerilla Girls “Public Service Message: The Advantages of Being a Woman Artist” from 25 years ago that says, “Being reassured that whatever kind of art you make will be labeled feminine”. Have you ever experienced this type of generalization? Do you think your work has a feminist appeal?
I was speaking with a guy last week and he automatically assumed I put all my work up during the day because it was “obviously too dangerous” for me to get up and be out at night. I mean I don’t know what century he’s from but I was blown away that I was speaking to someone who obviously had access to a time machine and was visiting from the past. These sort of sexist assumptions happen ALL the time unfortunately. Lots of time machines out there I guess. My work definitely has a feminist appeal. People often times believe I’m a man. I know it’s shocking, a woman roaming the streets at night with anarchist motives, armed with art supplies, trying to change minds. I can’t possibly exist- I MUST be a man. Perhaps I’m an anomaly- but c’mon. It’s 2014, people need to wake the fuck up and join reality.

For emerging female street/graffiti artists out there, do you have any advice regarding their journey in a predominantly male scene?
Be true to yourself. Don’t pay attention to anyone’s opinions- good or bad. Never ever give up. You’re gonna need tough skin- so don’t take anything personally. Trust yourself, no one else matters.

What has been your favorite work so far?
In terms of my street work- the 5 pointz install collaboration with BAMN trumps anything else I’ve ever done. That project taught me SO much. It was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears- there were so many moments where one of us was ready to give up and just say fuck it. But we kept going and didn’t give up. It made me realize I can do so much more than I thought was possible. It didn’t just open up pandora’s box, it obliterated it.

You classify yourself publicly as an un-commissioned artist, how do you feel about street artists that accept payment for legal walls, only to use that payment for illegal work? Or the rising rate of institutions cashing in on this culturally relevant scene?
Hey get paid. I’ll never hate on someone who needs to take $ to feed themselves, or feed their bombin’ habit. I think it’s important to question with whom artists lend or GIVE their credibility. We don’t live in a capitalist vacuum. We all have rent to pay, bills, and lives to lead. Being mindful is important. I think the advent of corporations cashing in on the “cool factor” of our world is a little gross and disingenuous. But artists say yes because they’re broke and they can’t say no to $5,000 or $10,000. They get called sellouts- but really living solely on art is a MOTHERFUCKER. You don’t sell, you don’t eat? This winter was super scary financially for me. If someone had offered me $10,000 when I was -$2500 I may have said yes- because I honestly didn’t know where my next dollar was going to come from. It’s kinda fucked- but this is life. It goes back to the wealth disparity issues I mentioned before. Those who have $ control most of us, even if we work every moment of our lives to undo them. The majority of the world is a slave to the dollar. That’s fucked- I want no part in it. But it’s virtually impossible to create social change from a hut in the woods. So I’ll stick it out and stick it to ’em with every dollar I make.

Not only is your work inspiring, but it’s damn powerful. What lead you here?
I can’t stand by and watch all this shit go down. I see injustice all around me. Whether it’s corporate welfare (Walmart paying their employees below a living wage etc), genetically modified food destroying people’s minds and bodies, the hijacking of our government officials through unlimited campaign donations- the world is going mad and virtually NO ONE is paying attention. I refuse to be a passive bystander, the world can be so much fucking better. I expect a lot from myself, so I also expect a lot from everyone else- this path we’re on as a nation and as a planet is totally unsustainable, and pathetically short sighted. The best way I communicate is visually- so to discuss these issues in the most effective way possible means I make art. No one can tell me what to make, what not to make. It’s the ultimate freedom, which I cherish beyond explanation. It’s incredibly challenging to live off my work- but that’s nothing compared to the challenge of keeping my mouth shut.

Photography: Ethersock

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