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Brooklyn Street Art

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BD White Flies Into Space With Astronauts for “Love, Loss and Longing”

Posted on August 17, 2017

Street Artist BD White has always been intrigued by the life of astronauts – so much so that he has them tattooed on his arms. Their desire for adventure, the solitude in space, and their storied longings for loved ones far away provide metaphorical  inspiration for this new gallery show that he has been developing for weeks.

BD White. Detail. Spray paint stenciled on wood panel. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

It’s a trip that BD takes through a darkly mysterious, sometimes disorienting, often sparkling world alone – and with you. To prepare for the new space exploration he has resolved to push himself far above where he has gone before to create a new body of work that is the most technically complex he has ever made, using up to 80 layers of cut stencils to create new paintings.

Eager to distinguish his work from others and to challenge himself beyond his comfort level, BD tells us in his Brooklyn studio that he’s learned a lot in this process and he is enamored with a technique of foreshortening the image and mixing the spray paint on the artwork itself, creates depth in the layers, making the image ‘pop’ off of the surface.

In the Street Art game around New York for a relatively short time, his new studio  collection includes 24 original works, 4 original collaboration works, a handful of limited edition screen prints and a statue of an astronaut.

BD White at work on a painting. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

This central new image is one that he’s focused on before: this suited astronaut afloat, tilted at angles in the weightless environment and happily or unhappily disconnected from the earth. With this image in mind, the viewer may gain a better appreciation for the artist, who tells us that his own experience with a broken heart in recent times inspired this theme of “Love, Loss and Longing” – and his prep for the show has proved cathartic, even therapeutic, enabling him to move on.

On a recent evening when we visit his studio BD’s mom and his sister are helping with some stencil production work, clearing the fresh cuttings on the machine cut stencils and silently working while a mid-sized and equally quiet but very friendly orange tabby saunters through the warmly hued space. The feline family member has to be banished from the spraying area and she’s too inquisitive to be easily closed away from the action.

BD White at work on a painting. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

With this many layers of stencils, the labor can be extensive, BD tells us, and he spends a lot of time just cleaning the new cut layers before he can utilize them. Text passages obscured by the new characters are drawn from lyrics of songs that remind BD of love, loss, and longing – but you can tell he’s not singing the blues as he readies for this new solo show at Castle Fitzjohns Gallery on Orchard Street in Manhattan.

Brooklyn Street Art: How would you describe your style and subject matter to a person who hasn’t seen it?
BD White: Recently I’ve had to describe my new work to a lot of people and I’ve been saying “I do paintings of astronauts and women, which sounds strange but I swear they are cool!” But if I were to try to be more eloquent I would say I make extremely detailed stencil paintings of haunting images of astronauts and women about love, loss, heartbreak and longing. Each painting is anywhere from 50 to 80 stencil layers on a bronze patina background.

Brooklyn Street Art: You have done work in studio and on the street, legal, commercial, and illegal. What is satisfying about working on the street? What are you most proud of in this new show?
BD White: What’s satisfying to me about doing work on the street is the immediate connection you get to have with the public. Not everyone goes to art shows, and you might only be doing a couple shows a year even.  So there is a huge amount of people that won’t see your work.  It’s nice to have it on the street to be able to engage those people as well.

BD White at work on a painting. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

It’s always exciting to me when someone new discovers your work during their daily commute and is able to stop and take a photo before moving on with their day. In this new show however, I’m mostly excited to unveil this new body of work.  These paintings are far and above anything I have ever produced before. I really tried to push myself and create the best possible works that I could. I wanted to take stenciling to a level I hadn’t seen before.

I’m one of those artists who gets bored unless I’m growing and making things that are constantly challenging for me. I could never just make one image and repeating it over and over again. What is the point of that? Now I’m not trying to insult anyone when I say this – I’m not referring to any specific artist or anything like that.  Everyone has their own style with creative expression and they create things that work for them and I have no qualms about that. This is just personally how I feel about my own work. I always want to be making newer and better things.

BD White at work on a painting. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

I constantly look back on older works of mine with disgust. I kind of hate everything I’ve made in the past, but that seems to happen every time I make something new. I remember loving the child soldier paintings I had done a couple years ago and thinking these are the best works I’ve made. Now I think they are awful. So I’m really excited to be showing these new paintings and I think I’ve been able to reach new grounds in stenciling, but I bet I’ll think all these painting are trash in a year when I’m making my next series.

BD White at work on a painting. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: How has your work changed since you first began stenciling on the street?
BD White: I think my work has grown quite a bit since I first began stenciling on the street. I’m always trying to make bigger and better things. When I first started I was making political images and pretty much just copying Shepard Fairey. I soon learned that not everyone wants political images on their walls or on canvas and although I felt strongly about the politics I was putting forward, it limited my audience.

BD White at work on a painting. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

My goal has always been to make work that can resonate with everyone. I want my work to evoke an emotional reaction from the viewer in one way or another. So I’ve tried to grow and form into my own unique style. I think I’ve finally left behind my copying of Shepard Fairey and have produced works that are completely original to me. A lot of artists paint astronauts, there is nothing original about that, I know.  But I’ve never seen anyone who has done astronauts with women. And none in these haunting poses about love, loss, and longing.

The works and images I’ve made are 100% mine alone.  I draw everything from scratch. I don’t Google source any of my astronauts. There is no reference photo on the Internet for them. I photograph all the women myself but only use that reference in a loose sense. I change a lot from photo to painting. I never want my work to be just a painting of a photograph. I don’t understand the point of that. True art to me is when you can create something that no one else can reproduce. I’m not sure if I’ve reached that stage yet or ever will, but that’s what I’m striving for.

BD White. Detail. Spray paint stenciled on wood panel. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Do you feel connected to Ai Weiwei?
BD White: I made that Ai Weiwei painting about 3 or 4 years ago. I had seen that documentary Never Sorry, which was all about him. I felt strongly on his side since he was fighting for freedom of information and free speech in China. I made that piece to basically show my support and help spread his word. It was when I was doing the super political works. It doesn’t really have anything to do with what I’m making now though.

BD White. Detail. Spray paint stenciled on wood panel. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Spacemen figure into your pieces periodically. How does the image of a astronaut relate to you?
BD White: I use the image of the astronaut for a couple reasons, first to represent men and myself, but more importantly to represent distance and loneliness. The idea that the astronaut is literally not on the planet and is as isolated as one could possibly be – that is what draws me to them. I’ve always been interested in space and science when it comes to astrophysics, I think everyone at one point in their life wanted to be an astronaut. I think it speaks to our instinctual need to explore and expand our horizons. I also just think they look cool- I’m covered in astronaut tattoos.

BD White. Detail. Spray paint stenciled on wood panel. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BD White. Detail. Spray paint stenciled on wood panel. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BD White at work on a painting in his Brooklyn studio. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BD White. Detail. Spray paint stenciled on wood panel. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


BD White “Love, Loss and Longing” exhibition will open this September 7th at the Castle Fitzjohns Gallery in Manhattan. Click HERE for full details.

 

 

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