For graffiti artists, hiding your identity is part of the lifestyle, as several forces around you would come down hard if your real name hit the streets. --- Because of that you find more of each artist's personality shine through their artwork while their names remain concealed. Not too often do you find anyone willing to be talkative about their life beyond the paint, but the man we'll chat with today decided to be open in one important aspect.
Aside being a frequent name on walls and murals across the city, Ides has become a minor celebrity in SLC as being an openly gay graffiti artist. A rare, and in some circles unheard of, deceleration to make in a field where you persona and nickname are just as important as the designs you create. Instead of hiding it, he's embraced it, and in turn earned the respect of fellow artists and the community. But rather than let this one trait define him, his focus remains squarely on his artwork, letting his designs and creations speak for themselves as one of the best graffiti artists in town. Today we chat with Ides about his artwork and being an openly gay artist, plus his thoughts on local graffiti and a few other topics.
Gavin: Hey Ides, first thing, tell us a bit about yourself.
Ides: What's up man, well where do you start? I'm a graffiti artist, I have been writing for about eight years now. I have been from east coast to west coast . I consistently moved most my life, moved to utah a couple years ago and fell in love with this place! I consistently try to push the bar, and push my ability to paint. I love what I do, I'm a little crazy, haha, but who isn't?
Gavin: What first got you interested in art, and what were some of your early inspirations?
Ides: Hhhmmm, that’s a good question, the whole world? Well I used to think that I couldn't draw anything, I was baffled by art and wanted to figure it out. I believe I was nine or ten and my grandparents were getting sick of me, so they put me in this art class thing at their campground. While in class this teacher brought a whole new perspective to art for me, from there it sparked something that would never stop. I started drawing all the time. Then right about 9th grade I found Salvador Fali . I was hooked into surrealism, then got into cubism and many other types of art forms including video editing and photography.
Gavin: How did you get drawn toward graffiti and how did you first get involved with it?
Ides: During my 9th grade year we moved across country to Buffalo. I was so pissed that we moved, but while driving into Buffalo I saw this piece way up high on this rooftop that said "love" and I believe the "O" was a piece sign. It was in a perfect fade of reds, really bright and legible, I was amazed! I couldn't fathom that someone in the middle of the night somehow climbed this huge building, did this huge piece and got out with no one seeing them. It was amazing to think someone could have their name everywhere, as I started to get into graffiti I had no idea it would take me on this crazy ride. The graffiti culture where I started was a very underground society, it was a very old industrial area so there were no " legal walls" or " graffiti murals" so I would see so many great graffiti artist everywhere in the city you couldn't go anywhere without seeing them. Just to name a few , Lions, Atak, Merk Jr, Inve and Hert.
Gavin: What were some of your first pieces like, and how was it for you honing your technique?
Ides: Oh man, they were so shitty, when I first started I would paint in places no one would see because I wanted to get better before people would see my work. Every one has to start somewhere, but its your attitude and heart for graffiti that will make you improve. Techniques come with tons of practice and watching and painting with people you're influenced by.
Gavin: In your experience, is there any real way to learn graff, or is it more trial and error?
Ides: Well, like I briefly mentioned in the last question, graffiti just like anything else you do or dedicate everything to, will cause you to improve in time. Graffiti for me has nothing to do with a hobby or something I do every so often… graffiti is a lifestyle for me… if your that dedicated then you will learn a great amount, but as for a class in collage or some shit like that, no way. You have to be messed up in the head a little to do this. Hahaha! But aren't we all messed up in the head in some way?
Gavin: When you create and design pieces, do you put them on paper first or do you work from vision in your mind?
Ides: For me my graffiti represents my life, whatever is influencing me from the world, could be anything from my childhood to world events anything that influences or effects my life is how I create or design pieces. When I first started I drew something on paper just about every time I went and painted. As in today, it just depends on what I'm doing whether its a mural for a company or a canvas, sometimes I will kinda sketch a little something , but every wall is different from texture to size so you have to be able to adapt and vision it as you go.
Gavin: How do you decide where to create a piece and how it will look on that particular site?
Ides: Depends on every situation. Not one is the same, the idea is just to know everything about it. Hahaha. If I'm doing a mural with other artist, we all definitely work with each other, if its color schemes or an actual theme like " mortal combat." From there it comes from both references and my mind.
Gavin: Do you get hassled by the police for your work or do you tend to stay on good terms with them?
Ides: Hhhmmmm, interesting question… now a days I just kinda expect it, when I paint a mural I will get talked to by the police (most of the time). I mean when they see someone with tons of spray pant probably makes them question whats going on.. But just like everything there are nice people and assholes, if someone is not treating me with respect, in return you don't get respect back. But with that said as far as I know I'm on good terms with them and haven't had much of a problem.
Gavin: On a more personal level, you're one of the few openly gay graffiti artists. Which is an oddity as most artists won't even put their name or face out, but you've chosen to come out. How is it for you being a kind of LGBT representative in the graffiti community?
Ides: Well, being gay has nothing to do with why I love graffiti or why I paint graffiti. I struggled quite a bit with it when I was younger, now I'm comfortable with my self and who I am. I won't shove it in your face but will embrace who I am. I also have seen a lot of people get bullied or beat up, including have one of my friends gay bashed. I know a lot of people hiding it because of the ignorance in the world, due mostly to organized religion. My goal is to to break all stereotypes, and show its okay to be true to yourself. Being gay doesn't effect my painting or my running or the way I drive. Its just apart of who I am. I will say now with knowledge and experience, my graffiti has been influenced by what's going on in my life. I have painted in the HRC equal sign in a piece to show support for equality. I would like to work more with the LGBT community with some mural promotions for equal rights, amongst other LGBT businesses on various murals, but I'm definitely not limiting myself to that only. I guess what I'm trying to say is I'm proud to be an LGBT representative but don't want that to be the only thing that defines me.
Gavin: Have you gotten any grief over being gay from other artists or has everyone been cool about it?
Ides: In the graffiti lifestyle it tends to heat up a little from time to time. I have had people go over my pieces with homophobic slurs and to me got a little personal, but I LOVE haters! That's their job is to hate. I just do me. For the most part, my work speaks for itself. You see the work, it usually doesn't matter if I'm gay or not.
Gavin: What are your thoughts on graffiti as a whole in Utah, both good and bad?
Ides: When I moved to SLC, at first it wasn't as it seemed, it took a minute to realize how rich and how much history is in this underground culture. I think Salt Lake is slept on a little. There is SO MUCH TALENT here. I think SLC is starting to get even more recognized though. There have been world class artists come through to see what Salt Lake has to offer. I believe everything can improve, this city is amazing and I believe graffiti here will consistently get better as long as the younger generation follows in the right footsteps. As far as the bad part of graffiti in Utah, Utah stays on top of the buff. Most illegal graffiti is buffed within a couple days, which makes it harder for the culture but also allows for new canvas every time. As far as art shows and art collectors there isn't a huge demand here is slc for graff artist yet.
Gavin: Does it ever frustrate you that its not really recognized as a major art form in most art circles, or do you enjoy that underground status?
Ides: I don't think graffiti it self will ever fully be recognized as an art form, but the word " graffiti " is an act of vandalism and/or destruction of property. Most people definitely will only look at it in that matter. As for my opinion, I believe it should and always will be more of a underground culture because that’s where the real graffiti comes from. I can have an art show with canvases and other forms of artwork, but is that really considered graffiti? That’s where the dividing lines depends on the person.. But I believe it will/should always be underground.
Gavin: Do you ever look over other graffiti around the city for what others are doing, or do you concentrate more on your own pieces?
Ides: I always like to know whats going on in the city, and just like if you like something you always look for it, so I do like to know and see whats going on, but my graffiti is what counts most for me. I do graffiti for me not because of other artist or what not. So I guess I like seeing graffiti but definitely concentrate on my graffiti more.
Gavin: Are there any local graff artists you believe people should be checking out?
Ides: There are so many I can't name them all, a couple ones off the top of my head are Snipe, Kier, Guts4, Stem, Erupts and so many more.
Gavin: Going local for a moment, what's your take on our local art scene, both good and bad?
Ides: To be honest I have only been here for a couple years, so I haven't had very many opportunities to take an overall look at the art scene. But I have been invited to paint live at the Utah Arts Festival for the past couple years, and from walking around that and talking with more artist, I believe Salt Lake has a lot to offer to the artistic world. It's very rich, and it will only get bigger and better!
Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?
Ides: The only thing I can think of is in time. As time goes on and Salt Lake evolves, the younger and older generation will allow the art scene to grow and get the "typical" stereotype of the religious art influence out of SLC, and allow people to be open minded to multiple types of art forms. Not that people aren't already but time will allow it to evolve.
Gavin: Are there any galleries, businesses or organizations you feel are top notch around the city?
Ides: There are many great local places! I love SLC for that. As far as galleries, I have only been to a couple, I'm a big fan of FICE. As far as hip-hop culture, Uprok has that locked. Definitely want to check out some s great tattoo artists, check out Yellow Rose tattoo and Attitude Tattoo. So many great places in this city, all I can say is shop and eat locally as much as you can!
Gavin: What can we expect from you over the rest of the year?
Ides: You can definitely expect big, big things. This summer/ fall there's a lot in the works, I can't mention at this time. From art shows to murals, that might spark controversy, but we will definitely make sure that you know all about it.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
Ides: I definitely want to shout out to Brute family and "las calles nos eligieron." I want to promote Uprok for all your hip-hop needs and shout out for Blubber colors spray paint. And I can't forget my partner Craig for dealing with all you deal with!
|Follow Gavin's Underground:||