December 10, 2013.
What do you write? Are you in a crew?
DAZE. Never been that interested in the "Crew" mentality but if I have to CYA, Crazy Young Artists.
In what city did you start painting in the streets? Do you feel your work has influenced the community in return? If so, how? Is there a relationship between the artist and the community in which they work?
I started paintings subways in New York City in 1977. I don't really consider myself a "street artist" per se, more of a subway artist that came above ground a long time ago. In terms of influence I'm not sure who I've influenced or how many people. I can surely tell you however that I’ve inspired a ton of people over the years. I'm always meeting people who tell me I was one of their biggest inspirations. That feels good, it feels as if I've indirectly accomplished something. I think there can be a relationship between artists and their community, but I feel the world that I'm apart of and the work that I do is more for the appreciation of other artists. If people in the community get that then that is great, but if they don't it may take a while.
Did you go to school or are you self taught?
I went to the High School of Art & Design(NYC), got kicked out of there in my 3rd year and ended up graduating from Julia Richmond High School. Most of the stuff I've learned in terms of art has either been through the lunchroom at Art & Design or through Mad Magazine.
How did you get started in the arts and why?
I've always been into art, particulary drawing comics. I started making my first paintings around 1980. Making things has always been a compulision. I can't help it. I just want to paint. It gives life meaning and definition. I sell my work but there have been plenty of times when I couldn't sell anything. What do you do then? That’s when you really define yourself. I just kept painting and working on the things that interested me at the time and waited for people to catch up. Fortunately, in most cases they did.
How long have you been working in the streets?
I've been painting in the outside world for 30 years non-stop.
Who or What inspires you the most?
I draw inspiration from so many sources. Life, New York, experience, other art, a good plate of pasta, Russ Meyers, Jazz music, photography and film, the list goes on. I used to think I could only make art in New York but now I know that isn't true. I can make art anywhere. However, in terms of making paintings my favorite place is still my studio, DAZEWORLD.
What should the general public know about street art? What stereotype about street art/graffiti do you hate the most?
I don't know about this question. The general public shouldn't know too much about street art. It's better that way but it's also too late. Now everyone knows everything. The stereotype I hate most about Graff and street art is that we're all uneducated and uninformed.
Are you a full time artist? Do you have a day job? Is it best to be full time artist or not worry about it and make your $$$ elsewhere, that way you can paint what and how you want, which one offers a more creative outlook?
Yep, I do this shit full time, all the time. I have been making a living from my painting since 1981. No other job, no secret trust fund. It hasn't been easy, there have been a lot of peaks and valleys but I have a good work ethic and people like what I do. When I started in 1981 there was no blueprint for success. There were no examples of what to do and what not to do. Older artists did not take us seriously so we really had nothing. In that way I think a lot of today's street artists have benefitted from what we went through in the earlier days. When most of those guys decided they wanted to enter the gallery world there was already a reference point to start from. People like myself, CRASH, PINK, RAMMELLZEE, etc. really opened up the doors for a lot of people whether they realize it or not.
What are you working on now?
Right now I'm working on my first monograph, which is long overdue. I am also working on my first solo museum show which will be at the Addison Museum(Andover, MA) at Phillips Academy next spring. There is also a series of new sculptures and paintings in the studio. I've always been interested in film and now I'm starting to shoot some short films that will be very painterly by nature.
What do you hope to achieve or accomplish by putting your work in the street?
When I'm painting in the street it's really about the artistic challenge. Nobody I know is getting rich off that shit. So you better be sure this is what you want to do.
What was it like to be around in the infancy of the graffiti scene?
It was an amazing time that can never again be duplicated in anyway. I was very fortunate to be apart of something that touched so many people.
Were you making/manufacturing your own gear back in the day?
Outside of making the occasional Lee jacket not really.
What should we know about the early days?
I think what people can really get out of the early days is the realization that you don't need some higher power to give you permission to do something. You should just do it. I come from a place where it was more about creating your own identity and getting things done without corporate sponsorship or grants or anything. In some ways it's still like this. There have been so many times when I had an idea for a project and couldn't get support or funding for it. I somehow had to find a way myself. There have been many times where I'd be working on a concept for an exhibition for months and some stupid dealer would not support it. That never stopped me. I always found a solution.
What can you do now with your work that wouldn't have been possible 30 years ago?
Well, what’s amazing to me is the role technology plays in everything. It's really incredible. If you want to publish a book, start a clothing line, a business, make work in any medium, you can do it. It's all at your fingertips. This is one thing I find really exciting. Years ago the turn around time for any project would be so long. If I want to make a book I can spend a couple of days laying it out send it somewhere and a week or so later I'll have it in my hands. Also, you can find a huge audience through the internet. Before everyone relied upon a good mailing list to get the word out. In some ways I miss the old school way of things but I also feel these are exciting times to be living in.
Check out more of DAZE'S work http://www.dazeworld.com