Growing up in the port of Los Angeles I was always surrounded by street art. There was one artist in particular that caught my interest, I’m unaware of his name, but his work was so unique and I kept finding it throughout the city. His signature was a character of a white cat with black spots and he had it posted in different nooks and crannies around the city, making you look for them like a scavenger hunt. This went on to spark my interest in street art.
Some people may view this art form as vandalism, but it has a long and unique history in the art world. I found on WIDEWALLS’s site, a magazine about art, that street art originally started with gangs in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Eventually, it grew into an outlet for people unhappy with their socio-political environment. Many pieces held messages that went against the present culture of society, creating a subculture. Eventually, the pieces caught the eyes of the modern art world that embraced it despite its illegal undertone. Presently, you can find street art from your local alleyway to galleries to even the backdrop of many Instagrams.
I recently went out to New York and found myself surrounded by magnificent pieces all with different purposes. If you are enthralled with this work like I am, here is a guide to some of the pieces I found while exploring the city.
Most Insta Worthy
Mott and Prince St
This piece screams “Insta me” with flowers as big as people and colors that you can’t help but stop and look at. It is the perfect piece to brighten up Mott Street and bring in tourists. When you put the #muralonmott into twitter or Instagram a ton of photos posed in front of this piece or what it used to be, a bright blue background with lipstick marks covering some areas, pop up. I love that this wall is continually changing and can work as a showcase for various artists. Also, how could this not catch your follower’s eyes and rack up some likes?
Mulberry and Broome St
Audrey Hepburn alone is enough to stop anyone’s gaze, but it’s impossible to ignore her with these distinctive patterns across her face. The artist Tristan Eaton created this work as Part of the L.I.S.A project that was meant to brighten up the streets of Little Italy and what better to do that than one of the most famous actresses! Personally, this is my favorite piece because of the intensity that Eaton created in Hepburn’s eyes. She was a woman of passion and optimism who always seemed to see the best in the world and I believe that Eaton stayed true to who she was through this piece.
Broome St between Mulberry and Lafayette
If you are a fan of Tristan Eaton’s work you are in luck. Just a short distance from the Audrey Hepburn Mural is this four-story mural. Again, Eaton was commissioned by L.I.S.A to paint this and bring life to the streets of Little Italy. As an outsider to New York, this piece speaks wonders to me. It is encompassing all the optimism and dreams I have of this city through its bright colors and on point name that many know the city as, “Big city of dreams.” It’s a piece that pulls the heart strings of anyone trying to make it to the big city. By putting all the different patterns and colors on this woman it makes me feel as if it’s saying there is something for everyone in this city! Just showing off the melting pot that the city is with the young, old, black, white, brown, and everyone in between.
W 25th St between 10th and 11th Ave
By now, we have all heard of the wall that President Trump wants to build. It is a plan that many are not happy with and many have turned to art to express their rage. Personally, I have turned to my writing to express my own personal despair. This artwork in particular, is part of a more optimistic movement called #wallthatunites. Their goal is to make their own wall. Except, their’s will be made out of art! They hope it will be as large as Trump’s proposed Mexican border wall. The purpose behind this movement is to make a wall that unites people rather than one that divides them. I find this sentiment to be so uplifting. It’s a great situation of taking your anger or frustration and harnessing it into something good for the world.
Hidden throughout New York
Everyone could use some random kindness in their day, make them forget about the stress in their lives for just a minute. The Oraculo Project is dedicated to doing just that. They do this by spreading simple messages created out of stencil all over New York. The messages very from the one pictured above to sayings as simple as “you are special.” They want to bring back the optimism that New Yorkers once had in the beginning of their journey in New York or in their careers or anything they seemed to loose optimism for. Reminding people that the small things can have a big impact. I know for myself this reminded me of how important it is to take time aside and just enjoy the day. You do not have to rush from place to place, you can take one minute for yourself and just breath and realize how lucky you are to just be you. Cheesy, I know. But, it doesn’t make it any less true.
Prince St between Broadway and Mercer St
This piece is obviously commenting on Donald Trump become President. What I believe the artist was trying to portray was that once Donald Trump was a joke of a candidate, until suddenly he wasn’t. You get this from the fact the artist made him a monkey and threw a sign over him. There was a time where we were all laughing that he was running, but look at him now sitting in the White House. It’s a sad reality, but it’s something we have to live through now. This piece may be tiny, but it definitely packs a punch. If you like smaller street art with political undertones you can find it riddled all throughout SoHo on the sides of buildings and bottoms of street lamps.
Here are a couple of pieces that you can also find down in SoHo! Some fit no category and some sit on the fine lines between two categories. So, they lie in miscellaneous category for you to interpret.
Lafayette St between Prince and Spring St
This Piece is done by Bradley Theodore, a famous street artist. He is known for his unique style that uses bright colors and skeletal faces and has been featured in many galleries around the world. I would love this piece on my insta, it would add a great pop of color and some needed edge. Even though this would be a great insta background, it is so much more than that. Personally, I am a sucker for a cute story behind a painting and this sure has one. The faces pictured are of two fashion icons, Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfeld, who inspired Theordore with their 20-year friendship.The piece that actually made Theodore famous was a grander version of this one! He made this small one to go along with the L.I.S.A project.
Prince St between Broadway and Greene St
Honestly, I don’t know what to make of this piece and that’s why it lies in this category. For me, it is a tiny piece that conveys the New York feeling well through the simple phrase “be confident.” I also love how it is a little cartoonish figure.
Another little figure caught my eye not too far from down the road from the “be confident” one. These are fun to find around the city and add character to the streets of SoHo. The beauty behind these pieces is their subtlety. They leave the viewer free to take whatever message they want from them!
Street art has come a long way from its beginning, but what has seemed to stay consistent is that it is inspired by the unrest of the people. It highlights the issues that are close to people’s hearts at the time and inspires others to want change, just like any other art does. Recently, street art has been looked to as a way to brighten up neighborhoods and add some much needed color to crowded cities. Even though we may flock to these murals for our Instagrams we can’t forget where street art started and the messages that lie behind what we may just see as a pretty backdrop.