Brooklyn Street Art

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Chris Stain Gets Ready for the DNC in Charlotte

Posted on August 21, 2012

Street Artist Chris Stain is in Charlotte, North Carolina as the city prepares for the Democratic National Convention coming here on September 3rd.  Art on the streets historically has employed political themes and motivations, explicitly or implicitly, and this new installation by Stain again draws attention to the plight of the everyday person barely afloat on a teetering raft in an economic storm.

When you look at the work on the street, you find that Street Artists continue to address issues that affect the poor and Chris Stain has always kept these people front and center in his work. The street is actually one of the few places today where you will find these people represented so prominently because mysteriously, during a time of incredible need and insecurity, poor people are almost invisible on the glossy high-production “political” TV shows and websites and they are absent from most policy talk today – on the right or left.

Chris Stain with Josh Macphee. Charlotte, NC (photo © Chris Stain)

In town with other artists who have worked in the street, Imminent Disaster, Greg Haberny, and Ben Wolf, Stain is taking part in “America Now”, a show and residency hosted by the McColl Center for Visual Art. With fellow artist Josh Macphee alongside him, Chris was able to knock this piece out in a few nights. He says he can see that Charlotte has been improving its downtown area quite a bit and he just hopes they don’t forget about the rest of the city’s residents who aren’t quite as well-to-do.

Brooklyn Street Art: Why did you pick this location?
Chris Stain: The wall location was offered to me by the McColl Center for Visual Art. The building is affiliated with their facility. There has been a lot new construction and renovation in Uptown Charlotte over the past 10 years. However there are outlying neighborhoods still in need of assistance.

Chris Stain with Josh Macphee. Charlotte, NC. Detail. (photo © Chris Stain)

Brooklyn Street Art: Does Charlotte have a lot going for it right now?
Chris Stain: Charlotte is preparing for the Democratic National Convention this September. According to the Miami Herald the federal government gave the police force $50 million dollars to update their technology and arsenal for crowd control. Charlotte is a financial hub of the south and has much to protect in the way of banking and business. Surprisingly their seems to be strong support though for Arts and Humanities throughout downtown for the privileged with major museums and performance spaces.


Chris Stain with Josh Macphee. Charlotte, NC. Detail. (photo © Chris Stain)

Brooklyn Street Art: Your subjects are often regular people who are working and just getting by. Did you see many people like that in the streets of Charlotte?
Chris Stain:
From what I experienced and picked up on after the work week some shops close up due to lack of commerce. That’s when one store owner told me “The Homeless come out.” Most of my interactions were with people who didn’t live directly downtown. People would stop and comment, “Nice Job! That’s reality!”. I was there for a week before I started the mural but it didn’t take long to recognize the familiar vibe of separation and uneasiness of the new downtown that had dropped in on the old neighborhood. As an outsider I can’t give an exact account of all the politics but going off my first impression and gut instinct I chose the images I did to create the mural. Their is more to NC than just the Panthers (football team) and I that’s who I was rooting for.

Chris Stain with Josh Macphee. Charlotte, NC. Detail. (photo © Chris Stain)

Brooklyn Street Art: Birds fly high in so many of your works. Is that an aesthetic decision entirely – a way to use the space? Or do you think they somehow are symbolic of something more?
Chris Stain:
Yes the birds are symbolic and also they are an aesthetic choice. The birds are a great way to activate the negative space in the composition. On a personal level they represent hope; the concept of ideas taking flight. Once those ideas take flight they have the potential to be life changing. Creativity is a protest against complacency.

Brooklyn Street Art: What are people on the street saying about the pending arrival of the Democratic National Convention?
Chris Stain:
Saturday we had an open studio visit at the McColl Center for Visual Art. Myself and 3 other NYC artists were asked to make work in conjunction with the upcoming DNC. My work dealt with the protest angle. The people that I talked with that day, for the most part, seemed nervous about the influx of others and the potential mayhem it will bring to this easy-going small city.

Chris Stain with Josh Macphee. Charlotte, NC. Detail. (photo © Chris Stain)

Chris Stain with Josh Macphee. Charlotte, NC. Detail. (photo © Chris Stain)

Chris Stain and Josh Macphee from their indoor installation at the McColl Center for Visual Art. Charlotte, NC. (photo © Ben Premeaux)

Chris Stain at the McColl Center for Visual Art. Charlotte, NC. (photo © Chris Stain)


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