Banksy opened up The Walled Off Hotel earlier this year along the wall of the occupied West Bank with the “with the worst view in the world.” More recently, he teamed up with producer Danny Boyl to put together a film called ‘The Alternativity’ which features local children and their families singing Christmas carols ‘Jingle Bells‘ and ‘Silent Night’ in Arabic and English.
The film drops just in time with Trump’s controversial move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, which he also proclaimed Israel’s capital. The intermixing of art and politics is intrinsic to Banksy’s street art, but he’s hoping this event will have a real-life impact:
“There aren’t many situations where a street artist is much use. Most of my politics is for display purposes only. But in Palestine there’s a slim chance the art could have something useful to add — anything that appeals to young people, specifically young Israelis, can only help.”
Christina Angelina is an internationally renowned artist who spray paints murals. We spoke while she was putting the finishing touches on a project in Aspen, Colorado.
How would you explain what you do?
I do large-scale figurative murals, or public art.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on a mural in Aspen, Colorado. I’ve been wanting do a public art piece in Aspen for a while. Aspen has always had an outsider element. Hunter S. Thompson lived here and nearly became Sheriff! A lot of people in Aspen are open to trying new things.
How would someone recognize your work?
I rarely sign anything of mine because I have an aversion to advertising myself.
A signature takes away from the painting. I don’t want to jeopardize the piece in any way. You don’t always need to put a stamp on your art.
People who recognize my work already share it on social media anyway.
How do you choose your locations?
I drive around to remote places like the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico. I select places where my pieces can mesh and age with the environment. Once I find a spot I like, I’ll figure out who owns it and get their permission to paint.
I prefer to work on large outdoor walls. The bigger, the better. Cinderblock is my preferred texture but brick works too although it can be a bit too sandy.
While some of my work is commissioned, most of it self-funded. The lift itself can cost $2k, the paint up to $2,500.
Where do you get the ideas for your work?
I don’t spend a lot of time preparing. I concept on site. After I get get to a place, I feel it out. I create something that comes to me when I’m there.
What about the people in your murals?
The people in my pieces come from my imagination or from people on site. I’ll meet someone interesting at my destination and photograph them. However, I don’t paint entire bodies. I focus on the figurative stuff like faces and hands. The position of the object depends on the orientation of the wall. Most pieces get cut off by the brick.
How long does a piece typically take you?
One to three days depending on the size of the mural. I prepare the surface with primer first. Then I start painting at 8 AM and end at sunset. The one in Reno took me three days since it was 85 feet tall and 40 feet wide.
I’ve been working on more pieces than ever this year. I’ve learned some techniques that help me work faster and smarter. I match my colors to paint sprayers beforehand which expedites the process. I also let the paint drip with water. But most of my efficiency comes from knowing which colors will work for highlights and shadows.
Where did you get your training?
I developed my skills over time. I grew up in Venice, CA and started drawing and painting as far back as I remember. But I started experimenting in my teens. I went to art centers in high school, taking photography classes, finger drawing, and film. I studied printmaking at UCLA. I’m classically trained in oil painting and photography.
What is the piece of work you are most proud?
The piece I’m most proud of is the Kinetoscope, a tank in Slab City, Utah. It’s a post-apocalyptic area inhabited by squatters. I really wanted to paint something special there that aged with the City but also didn’t interrupt the peace.
I really connected with the space. The people that see it seem to feel the magic as well.
Who inspires you or who do you look up to?
My muses are the people that I care about the most: my friends and family. My work is also inspired by the people I meet at my mural destinations.
Of course, other street artists inspire me too. We all encourage each other.
Where can people find you next?
I’ll be attending Burning Man for my 14th consecutive year. I also have a few art shows coming up in Los Angeles so be sure to check them out.
You can find out more about Christina’s work online here:
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It is cool to be a rebel, to rage against the machine, whether the machine is government or Fortune 500 companies.
However, what happens when the artists that criticize mass consumption are the ones contributing to it?
Hypebeast explores the contradiction of art and commerce through the works of artists KAWS, Ron English, and Shepard Fairey.
Famous for creating the “XX” logo, he has since designed clothes for Kanye and UNIQLO. He also designed a Macy’s Parade balloon.
The so-called “Godfather of Street Art” has designed shoes for Vans and made album art for artists such as Chris Brown and Pearl Jam.
The artist is responsible for creating Andre the Giant Has a Posse posters and the image for Obama’s 2008 election campaign. He’s since sold his Obey clothing into stores like Urban Outfitters.
Altogether, these artists were former street art rebels who have segued into becoming legitimate participants of the industry by continuing to grasp each rung of the art and business ladder
When artists become business people, it tends to upset the niche group of fans that followed them in the first place. We see the same thing in music. Former underground producer Diplo now makes beats for Justin Bieber.
The balance between making art and commerce is a creator’s challenge. As grime pioneer, Dizzee Rascal said in a recent interview with Pharrell Wiliams: “What happens when these people start to agree with you?”
The artist rejects the system but then gets paid for making it look cooler, even if it comes as off as “selling out.”
Everyone has a platform for free, public expression. For Banksy, it’s the streets. For me, it’s my blog.
Before the Internet, none of us had a megaphone. We all had to be signed professionals in order to get a deal for distribution. But that model is broken; my work can be found just as easily as the famous musician, artist, and writer.
The difference between amafessionals and professionals is in the marketing. Sometimes you need the backing of a bank to help spread of mouth. For instance, I can blog and tweet all day but a legitimate writer gets an interview with the New York Times or CNBC and their shit blows up.
We can all make stuff but it’s the quality of the network that separates the bedroom creators versus the signed artists.
In the meantime, use your anonymity, the tech tools, and free Internet distribution to practice. There’s no excuse but to create something, even if you’re never found.