The Silent Power of Art in Politics

ForFreedoms Wall Mural Wynwood

Yesterday a reporter asked me why I thought art was important in politics. “Politics is people talking to us and at us. It’s words. The barrage of words today is so overwhelming that we can often no longer even hear or process them. Art presents things viscerally and immediately. Silently. So that the message enters us through the heart or the soul.” 

Of course, I see the irony in my use of words to disparage the use of words. So I will keep my words to a minimum here and simply alert you to my latest project, a collaboration with the fearless ForFreedoms.org. As the first artist-run Super PAC, For Freedoms uses art to inspire deeper political engagement for citizens who want to have a greater impact on the American political landscape. 

I'm With The Banned @MacayaGallery
I’m With The Banned @MacayaGallery thru Nov 25th

When For Freedoms invited me a few short weeks ago to collaborate on their incisive Billboards campaign, I thanked the universe for this potent cup of serendipity. Not only am I honored and humbled to work with thought leaders like Hank Willis Thomas and Wyatt Gallery, I’m stunned at how EXACTLY their mission compliments my current exhibition, which the Miami New Times summed up this way, “Sheldon says he sees this year’s election season as a grotesque perversion of American equality. As a white man, he says, he embraces his identity and the innate privilege associated with it, and he hopes that as an ally, his work can enlighten these perversions.”

For Freedoms is all about enlightening the perversions that surround us. At this very moment, their artist-made messages blanket the USA on the sides of trucks, roadside billboards, park benches, bus stops and the like. They hit hard as good art must. Aiming to pierce the noise.

For Freedoms Billboard

Not Voting Billboard

Park Bench Billboard

Like For Freedoms, we all must go on offense as we witness the organic end of America’s dominant white Christian paradigm. An animal this deeply entrenched in its ecosystem does not die without a fight. With its back against the wall, its fangs are bared, and it wants blood. But its death by drowning is imminent as America’s demographic tidal wave gets more and more multi-hued. And the words on the Statue of Liberty become manifest. No hater is gonna stop it.

Bootstraps Billboard

Grab Em By The Ballots

100-feet of hard truth - DISCUSS
100-feet of hard truth – come out and discuss.

YOU are invited to be a part of this activation. Literally. Monday, Nov 7th, one night before the Election, we debut our 100-foot mural in Wynwood (see invite below). We start at my exhibition, I’m With The Banned, and then move to the mural a few blocks away, where YOU are invited to write on that 100-foot wall what you desire FREEDOM OF and FREEDOM FROM.

For Freedoms Wall Debut

If you can’t make it Monday, no matter where you are in America, there’s a good chance that one of the For Freedom’s installations is coming your way. Find out more here

Interactive Billboards

Upcoming Exhibition Announcements:

I’m With The Banned runs at Macaya Gallery thru Nov 25th: Tue-Fri 10AM-5PM, Sat, Sun & Mon BY APPOINTMENT, (786) 577-0322.

I’ll be showing all over Art Basel Miami this year, including at SCOPE Art Fair, Superfine Art Fair, with Primary Projects and much more. Reach out for details. 

IF YOU DON’T LIVE IN MIAMI, I have a simple favor to ask. I DO NOT want to burden you with invites to Miami events that you do not wish to receive, so I am cleaning up this database geographically. I would be grateful if you would simply reply to this email with your name and where you live. I can then be much more targeted and less intrusive in my future outreach.

MomandEricAtOpening
I’ll leave you with this pic of my mom and brother at the opening last week because … FAMILY

 

Follow the Turkey Vultures To Paradise

t_w_o_o_n_e sketches his Fancy Nasty dreams

World-renownded street artist, t_w_o_o_n_e (Hiroyasu Tsuri) didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life as high school ended in 2003. This posed a big problem, because in Japan you’re supposed to choose your life path at that time, and few ever veer from it.

Not ready to pull that trigger, Hiro bolted the comfort of his native land for Australia, because he desired to learn English, and it was nearer than England. He’d heard of Sydney, so he chose Melbourne, about which he knew nothing.

t_w_o_o_n_e "Black bird" completed for Re.Discover Street Art Festival, Bunbury, Australia, 2014
t_w_o_o_n_e “Black bird” Re.Discover Street Art Festival, Bunbury, Australia, 2014

Hanging at his local one night soon after arriving, Hiro noticed some interesting drawings on the bathroom stall. Whimsically, he grabbed a pencil and added his own flourishes to the existing marks. When he returned the next evening, he noticed that the original artist had drawn his own fresh additions to Hiro’s marks. Over the next few days, the bathroom installation grew and grew, as two total strangers dialogued in spontaneous illustration. Hiro finally met his toilet collaborator, and they became fast friends who began drawing together in public places. Not long after, that pub hosted a show for Hiro, where he sold work and, lucky for the rest of us, realized his path.

t_w_o_o_n_e
t_w_o_o_n_e gets right down to business at Fancy Nasty.

A few weeks ago, I stood at my grill flipping sausages for a gathering of Fancy Nasty artists who’d flown in from various parts of Europe, Asia and South America.

We sipped beers and philosophized about our work, our families, our dreams. All the while, Hiro, now 30, sat drawing on the brown paper in which the sausages had been wrapped. His eyes twinkled when I asked him if I could keep it. “Surely,” he said in soft, musical, perfect English. 

t_w_o_o_n_e drawing
Hiro draws on a sausage wrapper.

In the days that followed, my new friend got busy. Hiro’s first of two exterior walls featured a man’s resolute profile, perhaps a shaman or warrior preparing for battle.

What struck me was how, after Hiro rendered the face perfectly, he chose to mar it with slashes of pink, as if to say, perfection is overrated and life is made compelling by one’s scars. 

t_w_o_o_n_e adds the turkey vulture
t_w_o_o_n_e adds the turkey vulture

The next time I saw the face, Hiro had overlaid it with a bird. When I asked him about it, he said, “When I go to a new place to paint, I like to research the local wildlife. I discovered that the turkey vulture is popular here.” When he said “turkey vulture,” I got chills. “Hiro, do you see that island,” I said, pointing to a cluster of mangroves 300 meters from where we stood. “That is a turkey vulture sanctuary.” Within minutes, turkey vultures swirled high above us.

Stuart Sheldon - Wipeout
@stuart_sheldon – Wipeout (See Notes) aka The Gold Room, 2015 

These past 6 months, crystalizing the vision that became Fancy Nasty, have been some of the most serendipitous and satisfying of my life as an artist … and a person.

Not just because the work that we each made was strong. But because a group of disparate personalities, from the far corners of the globe, each understood immediately the opportunity, and proceeded to roll up their sleeves, put their heads down and get their jobs done, said job being to pull forth from their chests the very beating heart that makes them creative geniuses. Each recognized that Fancy Nasty was not just another art show but an affirmation, in a fraught world, that creative purity abounds, non-commercial excellence compels and mystical connectivity, when acknowledged, spins straw into gold.

The artist sits in quiet contemplation of a job well done.

Hiro is gone, swept off to paint his next masterpiece in Paris and then who knows where. Ditto many of the twenty majestic creatures who touched down briefly, sprinkled their fairy dust and flew away.

To each, I bow humbly, and say, WOW! Thank you for creating with me one of the highlights of my life! And for helping to inaugurate Build Crew, the non-profit I founded with friends to help artists build, install and place public art.

Hiro jumps - the island just off shore is a turkey vulture sanctuary
Wherever he goes, Hiro jumps in! In the distance – the turkey vulture island.

We just can’t stop!

Come hang by the FN fire THIS FRIDAY NIGHT 9pm. BYOB.

Come unwind with the artists
THIS FRIDAY NIGHT (Dec 18th)
around the Fancy Nasty firepit
9pm – ??

BYOB!!! 

5625 North Bayshore Drive in Morningside

Don’t take my word for it. Here is what Fusion TV had to say about Fancy Nasty:

 

t_w_o_o_n_e & NOVE
t_w_o_o_n_e & NOVE collaboration. Painted in two days.

 

NOVE @digitalorganico
NOVE @digitalorganico (Sao Paolo)

 

Strawberrita Dreams
Strawberrita Dreams

 

Andrea Nhuch
Andrea Nhuch @thenhuch

 

Kelly Breez
Kelly Breez

 

Fuckin Feelin It
Fuckin Feelin It

 

@Hoxxoh & Brandon Opalka go old-school ballistic
@Hoxxoh & Brandon Opalka go old-school ballistic

 

Another day at the office.
Another day at the Fancy Nasty office

 

DJ Strategy flew the Golden Age Hiphop in from New Orleans - OMFG!
DJ Strategy flew the Golden Age Hiphop in from New Orleans – OMFG!

 

@stuart_sheldon
@stuart_sheldon

 

Gustavo Amaral & Andrea Nhuch
Gustavo Amaral & Andrea Nhuch

 

Strawberrita Dreams
Strawberrita Dreams. It’s lit, alright!

 

Gary Feinberg
Gary Feinberg

 

@zosenbandido & @mina_hamada
@zosenbandido & @mina_hamada (Buenos Aires & Tokyo)

 

Kelly Breez
@KellyBreez

 

Michael Loveland
Michael Loveland @flyinglovebucket

 

Lee-Joon Youn
Lee-Joon Youn (S. Korea)

 

Randy Burman
@RandyBurman

 

Jesse Laino
Light sculpture by Jesse Laino @real_jesse . Mirror etching by Kyle Chapman @krbchapman

 

Dracula
Dracula performs around the Bambi shrine and nightmare disco ball.

 

Typoe
@Typoe

 

Kiss.
Kiss me now!

 

Benji Cospolite
Benji Cospolite

 

Wyatt Gallery
@wyattgallery

 

MSG Crew
MSG Crew

 

Autumn Casey
Autumn Casey @strawbrry5trill_

 

Benji Cospolite
Benji Cospolite

 

Shiny happy people.
Shiny happy people.

 

Autumn Casey
Autumn Casey

 

Magic
Magic

 

Jesse Laino
Jesse Laino & Kyle Chapman

 

@stuart_sheldon
@stuart_sheldon

 

Autumn Casey
Autumn Casey

 

Gustavo Amaral
@GustavoAmaral (Sao Paolo)

 

Primary Projects makes a rainbow
Primary Projects makes a rainbow

 

@stuart_sheldon
Gimme That Cold Money! @stuart_sheldon

 

t_w_o_o_n_e & NOVE sketch their next moves
t_w_o_o_n_e & NOVE sketch their next moves. With Elif Ucan from @spokeofficial

 

FN typist

 

Magic
More Magic

 

We killed it!
We killed it!

Fancy Nasty is all over Instagram at #FancyNasty and #thegoldhouse. 

If you missed it, read more about it here and see more photos here. Message me for a private tour before the show gets scraped off the planet by bulldozers next month. And, if you’re the media, hit me to cover the destruction of the installation with all this killer art inside.

Hells yeah!!

Stuart Sheldon
Mic Drop!

 

 

Paint A School, Save The World

Amazing wall by Melbourne artist Adnate. Photo by Sean R. Sullivan
This amazing wall by Melbourne artist Adnate typifies the dreary public middle school’s transformation. Photo by Sean R. Sullivan

“Our school used to look like a prison. Now it looks like a place I want to come to everyday,” a shining 13-year old girl told Miami’s Jose de Diego Middle School’s rookie principal, April Thompson-Williams. Like so many inner city schools, JdD was a sprawling, windowless bunker before one of its teachers had the brilliant yet simple idea to reach out to local artists. 

Before
Before
After
After. The delicious work of Douglas Hoekzema, aka Hoxxoh.

In just a few days, twenty-plus huge walls went from big blank barriers to mesmerizing portals. Now, says principal Thompson, the 700 students consider the space “sacred.”

Nothing like this existed at the mass of sour yellow boxes that was my public middle school, and we were located in a leafy suburb. Our grounds were beat up and adequate at best, certainly not inspiring. Sacred? Yeah, right.  Now, at JdD, a pent-up enthusiasm has been released in an underserved student population, where 96% receive subsidized lunch and where, like so many schools across the country, budgetary cuts have removed art and music programs. There is a new “calmness, where students feel the need to behave out of respect for the art,” Thompson said. “Because they were there to bear witness to these works from beginning to end. And they feel a responsibility to protect the work and tell the story.”

WHAT IF WE EACH DID THIS WITH ONE INNER-CITY SCHOOL IN OUR OWN COMMUNITY?

Whimsical Norwegian artist Martin Whatson brought two new stencil works, including this interior piece called “Dancer” to the Raw Project at the Jose De Diego Middle School.
Whimsical Norwegian artist Martin Whatson brought two new stencil works, including this interior piece called “Dancer”

JdD sits adjacent to the Wynwood Arts District, a darling of the international contemporary art scene. Still, as is so often the case, the working class neighborhoods nearby saw little to none of the creative and financial influx happening a few blocks away. So, JdD joined forces with the local business association and together, they succeeded in bringing both killer local and world renowned street artists to the school, all of whom graciously donated their works. Next, they aim to support the creation of a permanent arts and music magnet program at JdD. If the government can’t do it, passionate citizens can. They are seeking donations of any size, and I urge you to support them here.

One 7th-grader said it all, “Now that they came, they made our lives better. It makes us want to come to school.” America’s (and the world’s) excellence is predicated on kids who want to come to school.

Giddy students line up in the hallway. Photo by Walter Michot, Miami Herald staff
Giddy students line up for class in the hallway. Photo by Walter Michot, Miami Herald staff

Each class was assigned to a different artist and was engaged in that artist’s process from inception to completion.

Each class was assigned to an artist. Chrome Dog by Puerto Rican street artist Bikismo.
Chrome Dog by Puerto Rican street artist Bikism
Chrome Dog by Puerto Rican street artist Bikism

The work is fierce and brutally honest, as fine art should be. It conveys deep and dark truths far more effectively than words ever could. When I was 12, I knew nothing of the power of art and its secrets. For me, art was trying (in vain) to keep my fro perfectly round. 

Fro

The students gathered and patiently watched the works slowly unfold and reveal their potent messages … about isolation and hope and fear and fantasy. 

Up and coming superstar, Santiago Rubino from Spinello Projects
Up and coming superstar, Santiago Rubino from Spinello Projects

More and more kids now walk around with sketchbooks, sitting between classes and drawing. “When can I paint? Will you give me free time so I can paint?” one 6th-grader asked the principal.

The fuse is lit!

Shark Eating the Kids at the entrance
Artist like Toof AND the school showed enormous boldness, exemplified by this Great White shark devouring the kids as they enter. The metaphors are endless!

“Keeping it 100,” is high praise in teen slang. It means to to be honest and stick to the way you are, no matter what any one else thinks. This was how the students described the artists. Can you think of a finer example for impressionable teens in the face of the frenetic and superficial world they occupy?

Suck Face by British star DFace
Suck Face by British star DFace

Much respect goes not just to the mind-blowing artists but to the young school principal and the public school system for allowing such no-hold-barred images to attack their barren walls.

photo courtesy of Walter Michot, Miami Herald Staff
The label on the dunce cap reads ARTIST in this masterpiece by French genius MTO. 

The sad truth is that our public schools are crumbling, physically and academically. With some paint and the magic of visionary artists, we can begin to bring some of the lost sparkle back to our kids’ learning environments.

Schools don't need to look like this. Find local artists in YOUR TOWN and set them free on these walls. EVERYBODY WINS!
Schools don’t need to look like this.

I am a co-founder of a non-profit called Build Crew, devoted to bringing large-scale public art into our lives. Email me to help bring the magic of large artworks to more underserved schools across America.

The Irish street artist Fin DAC depicts his signature Asian ladies.
The Irish street artist Fin DAC depicts his signature Asian ladies.

Let’s find local artists in YOUR TOWN and set them free on your kids’ walls … and hearts!