Nick Walker Part I: Mariachi Mona Lisa & The Snake Handler

The Bristol Kid Hits Brooklyn With the First 2 of a Slew for NYC

British stencil artist Nick Walker has brought a thick wooden crate of fresh new stencils with him, and after pacing and eyeing the tubular entrance to an old Brooklyn horse stable, he decides on just the right stencil to be placed near the street entrance to welcome travelers– a pudgy Mariachi player with a Mona Lisa face.

Nick Walker (Photo © Jaime Rojo)
Nick Walker. Place Holder (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

In New York for one week, the world class street artist provokes and beguiles right from the start. No surprise from a man who has just caused a bit of a stir in Paris streets with his Le Curancan, a high-kicking line-dancing gaggle of Moulin Rouge girls showing their panties and hiding their faces behind burkas.

Nick Walker. First Layer (Photo © Jaime Rojo)
The ominous silhouette is placed. Nick Walker. First Layer (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

In his trademark style, the new stencil is photographic, raw, and funny.  People poking their heads in to peruse the bootlegged mashup crack a smile, some shaking their heads slowly.  A quiet  unassuming Mariachi has a sudden impact.

Nick Walker. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)
Nick Walker. Colors and Details Layer (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Nick Walker Mr. Mariachi (Photo © Jaime Rojo)
Nick Walker, Mariachi Mona Lisa (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Nick’s carefully spraying the layers of the Mariachi Mona Lisa with his trusty mate Stuart, who, in between maniacally checking messages on his two iPhones (one for each continent), holds the layers steady and proffers suggestions or jokes. Just a couple of blokes wisecracking and eyeballing the sidewalk scene as the hot dirty breeze rolls down Metropolitan Avenue, coating every creature in a thick sweaty glaze.

Nick Walker. Detail. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)
Nick Walker. Detail. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Mariachi Mona Lisa completed, pictures taken, we slog through the burning streets 4 blocks away to the entrance of a metal fabrication warehouse. For this piece to be framed by two doors, Nick selects the newly minted snake handler.

Nick Walker. Fine Detail. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)
Nick Walker. Fine Detail on the snake handler. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

With his smooth undetectable merging of sources, the image combines elements from a snake handler photo, a posing assistant in a lab coat, and the artist himself wearing a towel over his face and a familiar looking hat.  Familiarity of elements and attention to detail also enable a moment of escapism as you wonder who this figure is and what they’re doing. Is it pictoral? Metaphorical?

Nick Walker (Photo © Jaime Rojo)
Nick Walker (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

As each stencil layer is unpacked and unfolded onto the sidewalk, an amused audience of metal workers, motor cycle enthusiasts, and photocopier salespeople stop to discuss and ask questions.  Once again, the street feels alive with creativity and activity, folding chairs are offered, and bottles of water.

Nick Walker. Detail. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)
Nick Walker. Detail. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Nick Walker

Nick Walker (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Incredibly the story does not end there, as only blocks later a snake handler appears on the sidewalk before us and drapes Nick with the reptile so he can finally try his hand. This is his first time actually handling a snake. He said the spotted serpent was smoother than he thought, and strong, and he felt at one moment like it was tightening around his throat.

Nick Walker (Photo © Jaime Rojo)
Nick Walker (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Tomorrow Nick will hit New York streets again. The clock is ticking after all, and there are more fresh unseen stencils to be unveiled.  We’ll be there to catch his sly grin and wonder what he’ll pull out next.

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Special thanks to Stuart, Joe Franquinha, his mom and pop, David Markusen-Weiss, Brian Dencklau, Isaac Zal Sprachman, Tim Mellema, Hannah, Mehdi, Moshe, and Joe for the assistance, hospitality, and conversation.

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