(steven lopez, one brought light but the other brought the funk, acrylic on canvas, 48x30)
if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, or if you're a local and you've seen me out at a show on the verge of a panic attack of joy, babbling on about september's show, you know how big of a fan i am of steven lopez's work, and how floored i was when he excepted my offer to do a show here at fenario. in fact the combination of his generous spirit and strong work ethic and my persistance and charm (i like to think) have yielded a project that includes not only recent canvas works by the artist, but a large scale installation piece in the gallery and even a possible live painting.
steven lived and worked in eugene for several years. after studying art at the U of O steven moved down to LA post-graduation to challenge himself in a broader urban environment. eugene is a open-minded, progressive community. as a whole we tend to embrace change, and find a collective excitement in new ideas. in 2000 steven participated in a project that exemplifies eugene's progressive attitude towards the arts. the city of eugene granted the lane arts council (who is now generously coming full circle to help fund our project with steven) 25,000$ to develop an art wall in downtown eugene. six artists were chosen to help create the 10x75' mural, which still cuts a dashing figure on the alley wall next to shoe-a-holic despite some spot jocking in the past couple years. fortunately, this evolution of the piece has always been part of lopez's vision. in an article published in the oregon daily emerald at the time of the project lopez said, "art is supposed to be continually changing. i don't think a mural should be permanent" (Markstrom, 5.17.00)
(frustr8, art wall, eugene oregon, 2000)
along with contributing a few other beloved local murals to eugene's landscape, lopez, who once wrote frustr8, has also left a lasting impression on local graffiti artists who often site him as an inspiration to focus their art into something more constructive and/or continue pushing for freedom of artistic expression. as a good girl with an ever-present internalized rebel streak i had always been fascinated with graffiti art, and having several friends who were themselves graffiti artists i had been watching the work of several local artists, including steven, for several years. when a friend of his brought in a few of his recent canvases to be photographed i instantly recognized the style and execution of the pieces and shamelessly bombarded the man with questions about steven's recent work. he suggested that i contact steven myself, and after some giving myself a serious pep talk i did, and the rest is history (in the making). steven took the time to answer some of my questions about himself and his art, and what he's been up to in LA:
CG: tell us a little about yourself, and how you got started as an artist.
SL: i grew up in boyle heights in my early childhood. my mother was a big guardian in my life. at times she was a little too strong, which i thought was a bad thing. but growing in these past couple of years has taught me that unconditional love was her motivation. when i think about that, it blows my mind and calms me down. the art side was always in my blood. my father is really good with his hands and can build houses from scratch. my mother has always been animated and has some major "zip" in her life. i think these 2 elements helped get me started. it wasn't until high school that my art teacher opened me up and showed me that i had something to offer.
CG: what did you want to be growing up? when did you know that making art was what you wanted to do with your life?
SL: as a kid i told everyone that i wanted to be a doctor and drive a limo. it sounded good but it was so far from the truth. i had an r/c car hobby that got obsessive. i wanted to be good, really good, so one day i half-heartedly made a contract with the prince of darkness but i didn't have the guts to sign it in blood. i was desperate back then because i felt like i didn't matter. i was drawing at this time but i wasn't really taking it serious. i was 14-16 during that time, i was concerned with why girls didn't like me more than being an artist. it wasn't until i was 18 and coming home from my freshman year in college that i realized that i wanted to draw.
CG: where do you draw inspiration from? living in LA must give you ample opportunities to observe life in all its vast array of forms. what do you take from your day to day life experiences into your artistic world?
SL: i draw inspiration from the many relationships i have with myself and others. living in southern california does open my eyes to a lot of life. i think about my own stereotypes and fears with other people. this was a big focal point for me a couple of years ago. the grittiness of street life and possibilities of one love contrast my thoughts everyday.
CG: your style seems to be strongly influenced by prior experience with graffiti art. do you still go bombing?
SL: graffiti is a big influence in my life. i don't bomb and i don't plan to. i've noticed in my early art career that i served my ego in the sense of, "look at me!" this left me empty inside for many years. i've been transforming my work to serve something other than my pride.
CG: how do you feel about graffiti art starting to get recognition from major art institutions, like the graffiti research lab at the MoMA or the front facade of the Tate London that was recently covered in huge pieces by international street artists?
SL: progression happens in many ways. people who believe in illegal work, that want to destroy more are contrasted by organized art. there is no one that is the authority on this art form so there is no right or wrong way to do this. anybody who says otherwise needs to look in the mirror and say, "i sound like george bush"
CG: music is obviously a big influence on you. how does music factor into your process? what kind of music inspires you?
SL: the tempo is very big. it helps get me into the world that i think about. sometimes i will play a certain album or song over and over to keep me in a certain mind state. i love listening to timeless music.
CG: you've been working with kids down in LA the past couple years. i know you're the teacher, but they've probably taught you a lot as well. what have you learned from your kids that art school never taught you?
SL: the kids keep me grounded as to what is going on in their world. being in school, or being an artist, can create a self absorbed attitude. being with them forces me to give up my perception and talk to them eye-to-eye.
CG: you've been involved in a couple really cool eco-friendly projects recently. is the environment a special area of interest for you? how do you try to live your life green?
SL: my friend eric ritz gets me involved in those projects. he actually graduated from the U of O years before me. i feel guilty when i'm forced to throw plastics and paper away. working with him gives me another sense of responsibility. i bike to destinations as much as possible. recycling is not big here in LA, so i take it upon myself to contact people to help get it done.
CG: how does it make you feel to know that the mural art that you've created here in the community of eugene continues to touch people and inspire them? what does it take to make something so beautiful and special, and then walk away, leaving your creation in the hands of the community?
SL: i'm touched that people feel that way towards my work. putting work in the hands of the community is an ancient tradition. i'm glad to continue that tradition.
CG: if you were a crayon what color would you be?
SL: sunset magenta
CG: what do you do when you complete a work you're particularly proud of? any interesting rituals or rewards that you indulge in?
SL: i stare at it for awhile asking myself, "did i really do this?" i might give myself a weekend to relax afterwards. but i have to get back to telling a story.
steven lopez's exhibit "modular transformation" will be coming up in september. opening reception with djs, dancing and live painting by the man himself will be held september 5th. this will also serve as the unveiling of steven's limited duration installation piece, so get here before its gone.
thanks again, steven.