A masterful curatorial vision lies in this collaborative endeavor that unites two generations of Stavanger artists in creating a dynamic canvas in public space – while the newest generation of onlookers engages in the joyful spectacle of football nearby and around them. The convergence of these two artists, separated by a half-century, in creating something novel is a rare, unique offering at the Nice Surprise Festival.
An internationally celebrated octogenarian whose art graces the walls of countless homes countrywide in Norway harmoniously joins forces with a contemporary graffiti virtuoso renowned for adorning the city’s walls and represented by prestigious galleries in Oslo and Stavanger. Amidst their shared geographic and societal influences, one may instinctively seek a common thread, a thread that unravels the aesthetic DNA of a city.
In this second installment of our coverage of this remarkable collaboration for the Nice Surprise Festival, we see the completed work resonating with the distinct voices of each artist echoing. “I’m used to larger formats,” Mr. Pahr-Iversen says as he brings his distinctive strokes to these white walls in kinderland. “And when they asked me to participate, I considered that an honor.”
“Well, I was a little bit nervous,” says Atle regarding his trepidation to ask the famed painter to work on the street with him. “But he was positive right away,”
BSA:Do you know anything about graffiti? Mr. Pahr-Iversen: No, I don’t. Never. I come from the other side. BSA: You come from the perspective of the formal Academy of Arts? Mr. Pahr-Iversen:Yes, sure. BSA:But you were supportive of the project from the onset? Mr. Pahr-Iversen: Let’s say I like the man, and I like the idea. This has a humanistic element to it. There is an impetus to make things beautiful or to make things right. There is something here that combines elements of religion, art history, and normal human behavior at its best. I’ve painted on concrete before – I went to the Royal Academy in Copenhagen, and of course, I have lived in Paris…
The two work separately while they are together, the air punctuated excitedly with the screams and yells of primary school children who try not to kick the ball into them. But the noise does not appear to bother either of the studio artists, despite being more accustomed to the quiet solitude of a studio.
An unusual meeting of styles, these three panels may remind some of the enormous graffiti jams that are launched in cities throughout the world every year. Since Østrem ran his own graffiti supply store here for several years and sponsored many events related to it, he is arguably one of the most knowledgeable about graffiti culture and history in the city.
The father of a young son himself, Østrem says that this schoolyard environment is not entirely unusual for him.
BSA:How do you like painting here while students are playing all around you? Atle: It’s nice. They’re very honest critics. One boy talked to me about the painting for 10 minutes, likening it to Minecraft. Another one was saying, “I see some animals here.” And so we get a lot of comments.
A consummate professional with years of finely tuned patience, Pahr-Iversen says this is a genuinely new experience. Still, his training and world traveling and exhibiting have prepared him for almost anything. For the moment, he concentrates on his own brand of abstract expressionism, perhaps in love with the first years when we are all exposed to color, shape, geometric shapes, patterns, and creative play.
“I also like the triptych and the image of an icon because it creates a focal point for the viewer,” he says. “For me, it is also a meditation.”
Punk Rock Politics, an Arctic fox, a Circumpolar Biome…
New York, a city that never sleeps, truly comes alive in the summer with an influx of international street artists and graffiti writers adorning its walls with fresh ideas and paint. Among them, Vegan Flava, a Swedish artist of global repute, seized his inaugural trip to unveil his unique approach—a synthesis of activism, urban aesthetics, and environmental consciousness. Over the past three decades, his artistic journey has been a contemplative exploration of art’s societal role, driven by his unwavering commitment to illuminate both local and global environmental and social issues. Woven through the fabric of hardcore punk music, veganism, environmentalism, graffiti, and urban art, Vegan Flava’s oeuvre emerges as a profound dialogue on societal complexities, hoping to stimulate your contemplation as well.
Vegan Flava’s artistic themes crystallize with clarity. He perceives his art as a mirror reflecting society’s nuances. He advocates for a shift in environmental awareness—a transformation that goes beyond human-centric perspectives to embrace a broader ecological responsibility. With an astute focus on the interconnectedness of all life forms, he delves into the intricate relationships between species and ecosystems. During a sweltering summer sojourn to New York, we had the privilege to engage with Vegan Flava, learning about his perspective on the natural world’s interwoven tapestry, our place within it, and the reverberating impact of even a solitary species’ disappearance.
BSA: Tell us a little about yourself, where you live, how long you have been an artist on the streets, other information you would like to share.
VF: I live in Stockholm between Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea. I’ve been an artist ever since I could hold a pencil. I discovered graffiti when I was 11 years old in 1989. I sprayed my first wall two years later. I painted graffiti during the 90’s, which evolved into urban art after the millennia. I’ve attended several art schools and graduated with a Master’s in fine art in 2005.
BSA: How did you conceive of being Vegan Flava, and what does it mean to you to adopt this moniker?
VF: It’s something that’s been interesting to explore. My alias Vegan Flava, has been a long-time art project where I’ve looked into how art can reflect society and influence it through urban art. I took this alias 25 years ago, and I was confronting the human-centric world with it.
I’ve noticed along the way that my alias sometimes affects people’s ability to appreciate my art. Art is a wide and open space for complex ideas, and what I’ve experienced is that my alias can be a narrow door that tends to close instead of opening into the broad thoughts, ideas, and topics my art explores. At the moment, I’m considering how my work would be affected if I start using my real name moving forward.
In the early 90s, the day after being at my first hardcore punk concert in the neighboring town of Vänersborg, Sweden, my friends and I formed our city’s first hardcore band. Beginning in 1993, I was active in the hardcore punk music movement, which brought my attention to many social issues. There were songs about how animals were treated in the meat and dairy industry, and at the merch tables at the concerts, info was spread through zines, pamphlets, and books.
The songs questioned human dominance, but it wasn’t until 1998 that I switched to a plant-based diet, and I started to write ‘Vegan’ in my graffiti. Later, I added the word ‘Flava’ to my street alias. In the hardcore scene, I learned that music and art can be used to reflect, change, and build society and not merely be experienced for pleasure. I was greatly affected by the visual language on all printed matter, such as concert posters, band t-shirts, CD covers, and booklets. Parallel to this, I was deeply into skateboarding and graffiti, which all had connections and were different forms of youth-oriented DIY culture with strong visual aesthetics.
BSA: Your earlier work often featured skeletal remains and dark imagery. Has that changed for you, and if so, how?
VF: Yes, I moved on from it a few years ago. I’ve been working on topics from nature around my hometown, animals, and flowers from the Swedish Arctic. A few years ago, I became interested in how much Swedes know about how the climate crisis affects Sweden. So, I focused even more on exploring local topics.
The Baltic harbor’s porpoise is critically endangered and is the only whale species living in the Baltic Sea. I’ve painted it in several artworks as a symbol for the critical state of the Baltic Sea, which has the largest dead sea floor area on the planet.
In February this year, my solo exhibition had the title Tears Of The Cryosphere and explored the many effects of the loss of water in frozen form. The cryosphere is basically the planet’s cooling system and is deeply part of Swedish identity. I’ve done several land-art pieces on snow-covered frozen lakes with large poems and motifs of endangered animals.
In paste-ups primarily in European cities, but now also in New York, and in murals and studio work, I’m looking into the movements of nature. As the climate warms, plants and animals in the biosphere must adapt to the new environmental conditions – or emigrate if they can. This is also the reality for many humans.
BSA: Is this the first time you have painted in New York? Can you describe what the experience was like for you?
VF: Yes, and I enjoyed every moment of it. It’s been a long-time dream to travel to the US, and I finally made it. My main goal was, of course, to paint a mural, and thanks to East Village Walls, I got the opportunity to paint a small mural in Manhattan. I was happy to meet people from the community and the many photographers who came by my wall and artists and curators from the NY urban art scene during my stay. The city’s art ecosystem was hard to enter, but I really loved New York, and I’m hoping to get an opportunity to go back soon.
BSA: Can you speak about the arctic fox in this image and its connection to Finnish or Swedish culture and ecology?
VF: The mural’s title is ”Rooted above the taiga,” and it depicts an arctic fox that lives far north above the tree line in the arctic tundra. Taiga is a circumpolar biome, an enormous pine and fir forest belt stretching through Russia, Alaska, Canada, Norway, Sweden, and Finland.
Due to the warming climate, the nature of the tundra is changing and decreasing. I’m painting the Arctic fox as a representative of this biome. It is not a threatened species in North America, but it was hunted to extinction in Finland, and in Sweden, it is listed as critically endangered.
In Sweden, the winter season is shorter, and it often rains in places where it used to snow. Winter trails that used to cross through frozen lakes can now be too weak. It changes the living circumstances of animals, plants, and humans. I’m concerned about the effects of the changing cryosphere, with melting permafrost and glaciers and the decreasing lake and sea ice.
In my art, I’m exploring topics and raising questions about species loss and changing planetary systems. Many species risk extinction before we even get to know them, such as the unique Baltic Harbour porpoise. I often face the question of what happens when some species disappear. Is it really a problem? What benefits do we lose when they are extinct? A species is often linked to several other species, so losing one affects others. We might not see what is already evident for other species. If the entire biomes of the tundra, the taiga, and the cryosphere could ask us, what is your reason for being? How would you answer that question?
BSA: Artists have myriad roles in society. How do you see your role as an artist who works on the street and whose paintings remain there long after you have finished?
VF: I’m interested in creating my art in dialog with the surroundings and in places that are not always necessarily designated spaces for art. Places where art can be intertwined with daily life and can be discovered in a spontaneous way. The art experience becomes a natural and simple part of the day instead of an active, planned, and conscious choice for a few. I also see public art as a language that expresses something non-commercial and can be a parallel dialog about something else. During my whole life, art of all sorts has challenged and inspired me to evolve as a person, and that’s what I hope my art can be a part of for others.
In Ukraine, Russia has bombed theaters and art schools and ruined public art and artworks. The Kyiv Soloists string ensemble was in Italy when their nation was invaded, and they decided to stay on tour to let the world hear Ukrainian music. Art collectives in Kyiv started producing bulletproof vests in their workshops, and Ukrainian poets and artists were voices of their culture in news channels worldwide. What this clearly shows is that art is producing identity; it is a home.
Atle Østrem has returned to Stavanger after 11 years in Oslo.
The muralist and fine artist finds himself in the right place at the right time – a flourishing career, a new high-profile street art festival to co-direct, and a commitment to family that anchors him in this city he was born and raised in. Formerly a graffiti writer and owner of a graffiti supply store, Atle is represented by galleries and creates a dynamic blend of urban narratives and personal expression that delves into humanity and society, often with hidden undertones. His unique characters, a fusion of humans and monkeys, serve as enigmatic messengers with possibly profound stories.
Artley’s iconic characters originated from his graffiti days in the early 1990s, when he first experimented with illustrated characters as street tags. Following an arrest in 1999 that momentarily halted his graffiti endeavors, Atle channeled graffiti’s energy into a new form of expression, resulting in his hybrid characters. He employs them to prompt contemplation of modern dystopian themes and everyday idiosyncratic ones as well.
“I think for me, graffiti was like an adventure. There were many elements – the actual painting… Like, it was my whole life, you know. Back then, when I was a youth, graffiti was exciting. You’d have to find walls, and scope out the situation. I painted on trains also, so I’d have to scope out maybe the train yard, and see if there are any security guards there. And you would have to do it at nighttime. You’re sort of living like a double life because you don’t tell everyone that you’re doing it. The whole thing was like an adventure for a period of my life. Working in the studio the artwork allows me to get the satisfaction out of self-expression. Yeah. My thoughts or my feelings get an outlet – and I can put them into my painting.”
Themes of control, individuality, and a looming dark forecast for humanity reappear throughout his paintings and popular prints. Characters appear as puppeteers and puppets, representing power dynamics and coerced conformity. In “Dystopia,” for example, he portrays a bleak, controlled society contrasted against a vibrant backdrop, inviting introspection on societal norms, surveillance, and individualism.
Transitioning from graffiti to canvas enabled Atle to infuse his personal emotions and narratives into his work. This theme reverberates through his art, reflecting a sometimes delicate balance between control and freedom, power and vulnerability. His experiences as a father are a recurring motif, highlighting his son as a pivotal force within their family dynamic. One canvas, called “Mover and Shaker”, appears as a family portrait to illustrate his current state of mind with a 2-year-old in the house.
I try to use humor in my work as well. So I think of myself now as a father with a small son. Whatever my son wants to do, you do. He’s the mover and the shaker of our family. It’s chaotic at times to have small kids,” he smiles. “So I think that’s where the title and text comes from. It’s like ‘whatever he says, goes.’”
In this Nordic city of around 130,000, Atle Østrem’s artworks enjoy popularity among the skateboard and graffiti community and older audiences turned on by the rebellious spirit and a bit of counterculture. His meticulous attention to detail, deliberate strokes, and vibrant color palette resonate with audiences. The character’s expressions arouse curiosity, while text and symbolism add layers of storytelling – all without overt confrontation.
Atle views his artistic journey as adaptable and transformed, evolving from a graffiti artist to a fine artist and adjusting from a nocturnal painter to a family-oriented creator.
“I had been used to sleeping late – maybe waking up at noon, you know?” he says as he describes incorporating childcare into his art-making routine. “Now I get up earlier, and I take my son to daycare. Then I go back home, eat breakfast, have a nap if I’m tired, work in the studio for two or three hours, go pick up my son, and pick up my girlfriend from work. We eat dinner together, have a few hours to play with my son, and stuff like that. And then I can work after he has gone to bed.”
This ability to navigate both the weighty, serious characters in dark worlds and the nuances of familial bonds is a testament, perhaps, to his resilience. It may be the influence of all the reality-TV programs that he listens to while painting.
“I’m a huge fan, or not a fan, but I like reality shows,” he admits a bit sheepishly. “Yeah. Like drama, like where people are arguing and stuff. We have Scandinavian versions of shows like the American ‘Survivor,’” he says.
“People form alliances, and they try to vote someone out, stuff like that. I love that. It’s sort of like brain-dead television. You don’t have to watch the screen all the time. – just whenever some people are shouting at each other, now it’s something exciting. You glance at it a little bit, and then you can continue working and just listen to it. I also listen to music – I always listen to something while working.”
From his past struggles with Norway’s anti-graffiti laws to his present role as an artist, organizer of the “Nice Surprise” street art festival, and family man, Atle’s evolution is evident and impressive. His humor-infused artworks encapsulate a spectrum of emotions and viewpoints if you care to decode them, inviting viewers to explore his unique view of the human experience.
Tito Ferrara, potentially the first Brazilian street artist to create in Norway, and his assistant, swiftly executed a remarkable feat – crafting a composition of two powerful jaguars adorned with his favorite symbols and talismans. This endeavor unfolded during his few days here Nice Surprise Festival in Stavanger. Stretching across 30 meters, the artwork is an embodiment of graphic prowess, emanating a vibrant and muscular energy that deeply captivates. His execution underscores not only speed but also precision and an ardent artistic fervor.
Speaking on this hillside street in front of the mural, Tito Ferrara shared his sentiments and aspiration here, saying, “I want to bring some Brazilian energy to Stavanger to stay here when I leave.” Continuing, he added, “That’s why these are Brazilian jaguars. And this is the biggest freshwater fish from our rivers – they are about three meters long.”
Beginning his artistic journey as a graffiti writer at 15, Ferrara’s current wellspring of inspiration draws from a diverse array of artistic disciplines. Japanese animation, botanical illustration, graffiti lettering, old-school computer graphics seen on television and film, as well as the Pixação he regularly encounters gracing the walls of São Paulo, his native city – all these elements coalesce to form his unique creative style. This fusion, representative of a digitally interconnected and culturally diverse world, accompanies him to cities like Amsterdam, Lisbon, and Toronto, and just before arriving in Stavanger, he was immersed in a project in Italy. The ongoing collaboration of styles and influences is as cultural as it is autobiographical.
“In Brazil, especially Sao Paulo, there’s a lot of immigration from Japan since the beginning of the century – and a lot of Italian immigration as well. So I am half Japanese and half Italian and all Brazilian. And I really like to put this into my work also because Brazil, it’s this mess,” he laughs. As he explains, his Italian name is interpreted as a Japanese 3D tag floating on the spotted fur of one of the Jaguars. “I like very much to use the letters also as textures.”
When discussing the amalgamation of different elements within his art, we ask, “So in many ways, this represents all of your different interests and styles. You have graffiti, Japanese figurative forms, indigenous people, the animal world, symbols of power?”
Confirming, he answered, “Yes,” and then elaborated, “And the Japanese flower and the fire snake. And I really like to draw it as a flower and as a symbol of Japan. This is all of me.” As for the snake, he explained, “It’s a part of me – a snake on fire. Yes. That’s a legend in Amazon and he is called ‘Tata.’ He is a snake on fire and he is also the protector of the forest,” he said. Now in Stavanger, he hopes Tata will also extend his protection to Norwegian forests as well.
“Uh, they’re toilet rolls,” Miel says plaintively when asked what are the mysterious shapes that reappear throughout this newly painted mural for Nice Surprise Festival in Stavanger. You shouldn’t be surprised, though – he was setting up some figure studies with his young son, who decided to keep himself entertained with the unusual/usual household item while his father set up some photos.
“I don’t know. I was photographing my son, um, and took these from him, uh, with him looking through the holes of the toilet rolls.” The sparrows fit nicely, he says, possibly inspired by the themes of freedom, autonomy, nesting, and natural beauty. Later he looked at the shots of his son and decided to include him in triplicate.
In a captivating twist of street art photography fate, our lens wizard, Jaime Rojo, found himself at the perfect moment to capture an echo of this mural in everyday life. Just as the final layers were drying on the wall to be frozen in time, a local resident nonchalantly strolled into the frame, proudly carrying a tower of toilet paper on his shoulder. Ah, the marvel of the mundane! As our pal, Carlo is fond of saying, artistic sparks often arise from the everyday tapestry of life, the quotidian. So, why not in this very spot?
Nestled within the embrace of these sleek, modern ivory apartment complexes, this newly unreal creation will be a visual companion for many here for the foreseeable future. The denizens of these chic abodes hold the ultimate gavel on this whimsical medley of influences and components; all swirled together in a soft, ethereal palette of light and shadow.
After all, the residents here get to decide what inspires them. So far, we have witnessed that the reviews of this one are quite positive when opinions are sought. Particularly those of a woman who calls herself Guro, who stops by to enthuse at the top of her lungs at Miel as he paints three stories above us.
“I live over there, right there. So I open my door, and I want to look at this.” Without any unsolicited advice from folks standing nearby her regarding the content or inspiration or how to measure it against art canons or political winds, she gives her opinion and observations about what she sees before her.
“He must love birds. He must have a connection to them. They come to him so freely. Maybe he’s been feeding them. Maybe he’s been raising them. Maybe,” she says. It is a thoughtful assessment. She says she didn’t know there was a new street art festival called “Nice Surprise” this year, nor that this mural was part of it.
“You see all the birds?” she asks a visitor with a glint in her eye. “They are relaxed. They’re happy wherever they are. And that’s how people should be. You know, everybody deserves to feel secure and loved and taken care of and not feel frightened by the surroundings.” For her, this is a canvas for emotions.
“It is just so wonderful. And it’s wonderful that we can go here and take a look at it and, and have your feelings flow. I look up, and I think you feel compassion and love.” The enthusiasm for this one is forceful as if vitality bursts from every stroke of the master. It is just as palpable as her disapproval is unmistakable for a mural by Doze Green a short stroll away.
“It’s dead. It doesn’t give me anything. It’s not three-dimensional. There aren’t human forms.” She does not have a favorable view of a formalized art world either, as she continues the critique.
“That makes me feel like that represents the cold world where art is supposed to mean this and that. You just give them a lot of nice words and then you’re supposed to follow. I don’t buy that. I don’t, so I don’t like that kind of art.”
Luckily for her, for us, and perhaps others who will be treated to these fervent opinions, the new piece by TelmoMiel can stay happily here in her neighborhood.
“Look at the colors. I look, oh, I think it’s, I think it’s just marvelous. I think it’s marvelous.”
The Bushwick Collective’s Block Party 12th edition ended with a bang and big crowds. This year Joe Ficalora, the founder, organizer, and curator, threw a warehouse party as part of the festivities and included a full-size replica of a New York Subway train designed by Danny Cortes and tagged by dozens of graffiti writers from the Metropolitan Area. We gave you a sneak peek of the train last week HERE. Today we bring you complete documentation with details shots of the train. BSA spoke about the project with Mr. Cortes, Edward Rivera, Mike See, and Joe Ficalora.
“So it’s amazing to me that you have taken something massive like a 1980s subway car, shrunk it down at one point to a highly detailed miniature…. and now you’re blowing it back up again!” says a BSA interviewer.
“It feels amazing, to tell the truth,” says artist Danny Cortes while a small team of fabricators and painters working feverishly on the full-scale car for an installation at the Bushwick Collective Block Party.
“Which one’s harder to do? The full-sized version or the smaller one?”
“The miniature,” Danny says with no hesitation. “Because the intricate details are so tiny and difficult to mimic something, you know? But it’s all; it’s so much fun. It’s so much fun.”
Cortes has been having a lot of big success in recent years making his painstaking replicas of New York scenes that make you feel warm and nostalgic for the streets; bodega storefronts, ice storage machines slaughtered with tags, box trucks, blue US mailboxes covered with stickers, the front of CBGB’s club, ice cream trucks, even tiny video VHS tapes of classics like “Wild Style.” And like the best writers in the day, he has been blowing up – scoring exhibitions and sometimes a celebrity client.
“I can show you what I’m working on,” he says, “I can show you, uh, one that I got for Drake for July” he reaches in his pocket to pull out his phone to show you his replica of a subway train pulling in under the tiled sign that says “Atlantic Avenue”. “So Barclays Center commissioned me to make this for Drake for his tour that’s coming in July. I’ll show you on Instagram. So it has almost the same concept.”
Mike See, who has been working long hours for days with Edward Rivera (aka Shutter Ed) and a team of people to fabricate this train, doesn’t even seem fatigued. When he talks about the sophisticated techniques of creating the lights, the windows, the seats, the finishes, and even the strap hangers – you can tell he’s excited to be a part of a crew. He may be more excited to have seen some graff heads who stopped by to tag the train in progress.
“A bunch of legendary graffiti artists came through – they cleared the warehouse for certain people to come in and be secretive. They did what they do, and there are layers of graffiti history from New York City graffiti right here. Is amazing. Outsides, insides, .. it makes you imagine the movie ‘The Warriors.’”
“Legends in the game,” says Cortes of some of the tags they have collected on this tribute train. “These are names that have been doing it for years and used to hit this same style of train for years. So this makes it more authentic. Not only is it like a stamp for me, but it’s also, it’s important to bring realism,” he says as he describes the process of layering, distressing, and applying finishes to the original pieces and tags to make them appear as authentic as possible.
“That’s why I faded out sometimes, right? You know, just to give it that overlay look and the fade distress, the stress look. That’s my style. The gritty, dirty, rusty. Yeah. What’s an eyesore to somebody else’s eye? It’s beauty to me, okay. So I accomplished that on this piece right here with my team.”
This replica of a subway car has been tagged for this special project by GIZ, SAINT, GHOST, THEAM, IR, CES, SPOT, JAKEE, KED, PGISM, ACNE, BERT, AND LANDO, DANNY CORTES, NEP, NOE, CHEO MSG, AND MIKE SEE among other graffiti writers.
In collaboration with the Audubon Society and Flora Fauna Funga (FEE), the French naturist, muralist, and former graffiti writer brought this natural scene into a boisterous babble of lateral glass and steel hubris. An artists’ neighborhood at the turn of the century, most of those colorful characters have been chased out by high rents, higher anxiety, and the startling, stultifying cultural homogeneity found in any suburb. It’s nice to see a little color back here.
“I had heard about this Audoban project on the street here,” Mantra explains, “and Martha said, ‘Why don’t you take the subway up to Harlem to see the new walls that feature birds and introduce yourself to the organizers.” He is referring to photographer and friend Martha Cooper whose cat Melia he once painted on a wall in Helsingborg, Sweden.
In the end, it was the Audobon Society in Paris who gave him the first opportunity, and now he is in the sister city of New York to paint this one for them. “We realized that it would be a good idea to have a mural in Paris and another one in New York City anyway,” he says.
Looking for a metaphor he says, “We are not even building a bridge but maybe as birds we migrated from Paris to New York.” New York has of course a public art connection with France at least since the 1880s when the Statue of Liberty opened – designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi , with its metal framework built by Gustave Eiffel.
“So basically,” Mantra says, “ I decided to design this mural so we could appreciate this bird above us. The ruby-crowned kinglet arrived and landed on the branch. Maybe he is as curious as we are.”
And what about the new mushrooms that have seeming popped up here overnight?
“There is a fungi foundation that is linked and is sort of a parallel foundation that is also a partner for this project,” he says. “From what I understand, there is a struggle to break into the scientific fields and establish a third order. It would be flora, fauna, and fungi.”
A pronghorn; the only antelope in North America and the fastest land mammal in the Western Hemisphere. The Oppussum is the only true member of the marsupial order that is endemic to the Americas. Basileus, a ring-tailed cat, and mammal of the raccoon family that is native to arid regions of North America.
These are all animals in our environs, yet you may not have ever seen one. They are important to our ancestral history of migration, development, and evolution across these expanses of land, air and water. We have co-existed for hundreds of years with these animals in his new exhibition in a tiny gallery on Manhattan’s lower East Side: a land mass that once was once a fertile landscape of marshes and woods. These furry and feather figures in ROA’s paintings may be far more aware of us than we are of them.
ROA, the street artist, the graffiti writer, the fine artist, the urban naturalist, the contemporary artist – whose work has appeared on city walls and on ruins in the rural countryside across many continents, may be unknown to you. But he has been here on the scene for 20 years, and BSA has been publishing about him for about 15 of them.
As we look at these new works, he speaks of these exceptional examples of species of North America, including more familiar ones like the chipmunk and the bluejay-which is painted here in his signature monochrome palette.
Whether a small drawing or a mid-sized canvas, or a massive multi-story outside wall, ROA stays true to detail and accuracy. The leeway he grants himself sometimes is the compositions, especially in his fictional groupings that also consider overall composition. An example in this show is the graphite on a paper scroll that features a small chorus of animals, an animated scroll of species crawling over each other that he says is “a crazy composition of something that never happened yet.” ROA says it isn’t necessarily a study for a future wall, but he could understand why you may think so.
“It’s unfinished. It’s a dynamic sketch,” he says. “It’s a show of how something could be.”
It is also a similar drawing to an aerosol wall painting that you may have seen elsewhere online. “I did a similar wall in Belgium not too long ago. This sketch is kind of inspired by that wall. It was a rounded wall. It was like 6 meters high, and I forgot the diameter. It is a silo. I painted around and around it, and it took me so long. That wall took me about two months. Not every day – sometimes I took a weekend off.”
After a pandemic period, this is ROA’s first trip back to New York. It’s a small, potent, intentional show that echoes others he has had here but now feels like an old friend returning. One that has survived. A native of Ghent, a city and a municipality in the Flemish Region of Belgium, he’s traveled the world actively until it all screeched to a stop in 2020. We’ve changed. Our city has changed. Nevertheless, he says, “I love New York. I couldn’t wait to get back here.”
ROA. In Limbo, on view at Benjamin Krause Gallery October 20th through November 6th.
‘Interactive’: an overused buzzword today, much like ‘engagement’ and its derived forms. Regardless, nothing replaces true community engagement like well-planned and executed public performance. This fall, one of the most interactive puppet performances worldwide has been traveling through New York, and thousands of people have participated.
Meeting thousands of people in the streets as a way to educate us about the plight of people around the world who have become refugees, the 12-foot-tall puppet of a young Syrian girl named Little Amal is fulfilling a mission begun many months ago on the border of Syria. According to the website of Handspring Puppet Company, the South African team which made her, Little Amal has already traveled 5,000 miles in the two years preceding her New York visit.
Little Amal has traveled “from the Syrian border through Turkey, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and France” through more than 70 towns, villages, and cities in search of her mother. She even met the Pope.
Now in New York, organizers say she isin search of her Uncle Samir. Planned events in all 5 of the boroughs mean that she is being welcomed by hundreds of artists, cultural organizations, community groups, schools, and colleges during a 55-event, 17-day traveling festival.
We share with you today images from photographer Chris Jordan, who attended one of the recent interactive performances in the DUMBO neighborhood in Brooklyn. We also spoke with transdisciplinary artist Heather Alexa Woodfield, who has created, produced, and performed pieces for various festivals and events, including at Chashama, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, FIGMENT NYC, the High Line, and The New Museum’s Ideas City. Woodfield tells us that The Little Amal project deeply touched her as an artist and performer, and she attended many of the performances.
Brooklyn Street Art:How did you hear about this project and what attracted you to it?
Heather Alexa Woodfield: I saw an article in the Guardian about The Walk with Amal in the fall of 2020. When I read that it was created by Good Chance Theatre, I knew I had to see it as their play The Jungle is one of the all-time great theatrical experiences. Since I went to Bread and Puppet every year as a child, I naturally have a deep love of radical puppetry and participatory public art.
Brooklyn Street Art:How many times have you walked with Amal? Were there many others interacting with her?
Heather Alexa Woodfield: I’ve walked with Amal 10 times so far. While I’ve mostly been too busy following the puppet to estimate the size of the crowd, it always seems to fill the space she occupies whether that is a vast space like Brooklyn Bridge Park or something more contained like galleries at the Natural History Museum.
Brooklyn Street Art:What do you feel that she symbolizes to you? Do you think people who first meet her on the street grasp the intention?
Heather Alexa Woodfield: Amal is a refugee who is being honored and celebrated all across the city. She helps us imagine a world where immigrants and refugees are welcomed and respected. I don’t think people who see her randomly immediately understand that she is a refugee. However, the experience seems to make people more willing to talk to strangers. Then conversations start, and the message gets passed. I’ve heard and participated in this exchange multiple times.
Brooklyn Street Art: How does art like this engage people in the public square?
Heather Alexa Woodfield: The public has a vital role to play in this artwork that is beyond spectator. Whether carrying a puppet bird or holding a flashlight to illuminate her face or simply walking with her, audience members become co-creators. This experience elicits a profound sense of collective joy that is reciprocal between the people who have gathered and the Amal team. I love seeing the puppeteers smiling just as much as the children around them.
We continue today with our interview with Analí Chanquia and Vanesa Galdeano, who together are known professionally as MEDIANERAS. Today we talk about what it is like to travel the world painting, how they address concepts of gender in their work, street artists’ responsibilities to society, and how Social Media has affected their practice
BSA:Your work together has given you the opportunity to travel around the world participating in international street art festivals in numerous cities. What is the benefit of the existence of street art festivals to the artists and to the public? Is there a benefit?
Medianeras: International street art festivals have contributed to making street art mainstream. We do not criticize this fact, but we conceive it as a natural evolution of the activity. In our case, urban art festivals have allowed us to carry out our work in different cities and travel the world. Above all, they benefited us by providing us with the necessary infrastructure to carry out murals of murals in large dimensions in places that we would not have reached otherwise.
BSA: Can you recall a specific experience when painting in a foreign city/country that made a deep impression on you, big enough that influenced your work and made you transform or change or modify your art in any way?
Medianeras: Each experience, each trip, and each new project is always a new challenge and therefore implies growth both in our work and in us as people. We have been growing with the activity, and we believe that it has changed us.
BSA: Since you began painting together have you seen any movement from institutions and organizations that favor including more female artists in their lineup? Was it difficult for you at the beginning of Medianeras to get work outside Argentina? Did moving to Barcelona make things easier for you in terms of getting commissions in Europe?
Medianeras: Yes, we have witnessed how the number of female artists in street art festivals has increased over the years. We believe that there have always been many women who paint in the streets, but it has been in recent years that recognition and visibility of some more have been given. We are now somewhat appreciated for our work, but it’s been a difficult road for us. So many talented women have been painting on the street forever, but many of them did not have the visibility they deserved until a few years ago. Larger walls have gone primarily to men. We believe that this has to do with the prejudice toward women in stubbornly patriarchal societies. This situation has been changing in recent years, and now we are meeting more and more women who have been given an opportunity to grow with their works of art and the space to communicate their own vision.
Before moving to the city of Barcelona, we traveled every year to Europe and other countries to carry out our work. Although the geographical location was a bit far from some destinations and this meant longer and more expensive trips, we have always been able to do it despite the difficulties.
Moving to Barcelona facilitated access to commissioned works simply because it was closer.
BSA: In some of your paintings we experience a visual illusion of your characters coming from inside the building’s walls. You create an environment where the forms are in movement but also the characters strike a defiant pose. Is this a way in which you are challenging the public to interact with your work?
Medianeras: Yes, these characters are empowered and are in a challenging pose for a matter of scale since they are always bigger than the viewer and look at them from above. Conceptually, the representation of these characters is due to an intention to express an intention.
BSA: You create portraits, sometimes with an abstract quality to them. Who are your subjects? Do you know the men and women depicted in your work? How do you choose them?
Medianeras: We don’t know the characters that we represent because they are created digitally. Basically what we do is distort or change the faces so that they look strange. Many times we mix faces from different photographs and in turn, divide them into color planes of different darkness.
We want our works to convey the message of a broad concept of gender. We believe that once the rigorous distinction between men and women comes to an end, we will see the development of freer social relations and generations of people who are less concerned with what they should be and more attentive to what they could be.
BSA: Do you think artists have a social responsibility to address the problems affecting our society today with their art?
Medianeras: Not necessarily. Each artist decides whether or not they want to work to address these social problems. All individuals whether they are artists or not have certain social responsibilities when living in societies. Urban art is important as a tool for the appropriation of public space. It is also political action. It is very important for the communities to express themselves in their streets since these are the places that we inhabit as societies.
The objective that we have always shared was the need to make public art, whether it’s a mural, urban intervention, or mosaic because we believe that there is where it lies the right place for our work.
We consider that public art is the most honest way to create our artworks and that anyone has access to them. We are not interested in making art for an elite that understands or appreciates it or that handles certain codes. It is art for everyone. Medianeras was born with a shared desire to move and create our work in different places and for different communities.
The important thing about urban art is that it expands this offer, making it accessible to everyone and democratizing access to culture. The main goal is to live the experience of creating public work, of engaging a community. That’s what we’re looking for and what fully gratifies us.
BSA: Do you think that Social Media has influenced the artistic output of street artists? Do you think that street artists have slightly changed their work in favor of a more welcoming and larger Social Media presence?
Medianeras: Yes, definitely. We believe that artists think about social media when making artworks since many times social media are a medium to show the work. Perhaps the media and the way you show your work is as important as the work itself. Many of these are created for these networks,
In general, we believe that the digital world has permeated the world of art and has changed the way artists work. We also believe that these modifications are not limited to the world of art but to the societies of the world in general.
Today we speak with Analí Chanquia and Vanesa Galdeano, who are known professionally together as MEDIANERAS. They are originally from Argentina but presently they live in Barcelona; together they have been traveling around the world together for 10 years creating murals. They work as a couple developing a vocabulary of kinetic graphics and androgynous, anamorphosed portraits that are jarring, slickly virtual, and somehow transcendent. Each is of this moment in the environment it is painted, yet reminds us that we are entering a different age of interaction that is not necessarily physical. It is electric, accessible, and oddly, spiritual.
BSA:How many years have you been painting together and where and how did you begin?
Medianeras: We have been painting together for about 10 years. Both Vane and I (Anali) were already dedicated to making works of urban art before founding MEDIANERAS. Vanesa is an architect and has directed a mosaic workshop in the city of Rosario since 2009, a workshop with which they carried out collective mosaic interventions around the city. More than 15 interventions can be found; some are murals others are urban furniture cladding, such as stairs or public benches. In my case, I painted my first mural at the age of 18, but I began to dedicate myself more specifically to urban painting around the year 2011 when I did my Fine Arts thesis. This was a theoretical-practical project called “artist looks for a wall “, which consisted of making murals on walls that the neighbors offered me when they found this stencil that I left as a signature on each work.
We met in 2012 at a mosaic street workshop in the city of Rosario. Vanesa, who at that time was directing the workshop, contacted several graffiti artists to make a collective artwork of mixed techniques. That’s how we met; we began a life of love, travel, and art together. Until today we continue to grow together and enjoy together what we like the most.
BSA: Medianeras is your artistic name. Could you please tell us about it? How did you arrive at naming yourselves “Medianeras”
Medianeras: We are a couple in both life and art, and thus our day-to-day existence and our projects capture our mutual growth. We called our duo Medianeras because we cherish the concept and idea of sharing. In Spanish, this means ‘lateral walls,’ which are those shared by neighbors. There’s a difference between walls whose function is to separate spaces, and lateral ones, which, conversely, join them. We maintain that public art, aside from making cities more attractive, proclaims the idea of a place shared by all the individuals who pass through it. We teamed up with the idea of conceiving and creating public art together. At present we are dedicating ourselves to mural painting, but we have also worked on collective mosaic interventions in public spaces.
BSA: Please tell us about your process for creating a mural from the idea to the sketch to the art on the wall.
Medianeras: The creative process is quite long. The idea that we are going to paint takes us more time than the days of painting the mural. We study the place a lot, the points of view, the architecture, and the surroundings; we take into account the culture of the place and the history. We draw the designs digitally, based on the photographs of the wall and its proportions and features.
The ideas to create the projects come mainly from certain characteristics of the town or city, the context, the proportions of the wall – width – height – unevenness – and the possible points of view. We mainly represent portraits, and we try not to necessarily define the gender of who we represent, giving rise to the viewer’s perspectives. The murals that we create considerably modify the urban space. In the case of the paintings that we make, they open a kind of window to artistic representation. However, it is important to remember that despite the fact that these murals are visually imposed, they are still ephemeral interventions in painting, linked to possible changes in the weather or any other.
BSA: Please tell us about your background in art and what you were doing independently before you formed Medianeras.
Medianeras: As a child, I (Anali) loved creating things, drawing, and inventing new objects. I attended different art workshops and studied at the University of Arts in the city of Rosario. While I was studying, I made several murals, and in the last years of my career, I was already doing all the artwork on the street. I also studied digital design, a fact that allowed me to handle 3d tools and have a solid idea about space representation.
Vanesa studied architecture and also fine arts. She always had a predilection for urbanism in general but began to carry out collective urban interventions through a mosaic workshop that she directed after finishing architecture
We are both from Argentina. We grew up in a city named Rosario which is located near the Paraná river. Our country, located in South America, is incredible and beautiful as well as uncertain, unstable, and unpredictable. This makes its inhabitants constantly adapt to different types of changes, whether these changes are economic, political, social, or otherwise. In my opinion, in general, it makes Argentine citizens quite creative in the face of different types of difficulties. We are a society that is accustomed to improvising and adapting quickly.
In relation to our activity, Street art is characterized by appearing in all its forms in various parts of the city in a somewhat uncontrolled and deregulated way. The techniques that are used are those that are at hand depending on the stage that the country goes through. For example, the colors and spray brands that can be found in Rosario are very limited, and that makes the artists or graffiti artists use only the colors that they can find or even mix between the same cans of spray they have. In turn, the high costs of spray paint often lead to the choice of cheaper paints, often acrylic paints or even a mixture of several.
In Argentina, there are fewer formalities to intervene in the public space, and this has resulted in a somewhat more spontaneous, less regulated, more experimental urban art, perhaps even more sloppy. However many times we lack the necessary materials or budgets to make murals of large formats.
Although it is an activity that is penalized, we could venture that as there are problems of another kind, more urgent and important, urban art remains somewhat more out of the main focus. In this sense, we appreciate that freedom of expression is not expressly controlled, often allowing experimentation and growth of various artists on the street. We grew up in this context, where through dialogue with neighbors in our beginnings we were able to carry out our works. It can be said that we learned to paint on the street itself.
There was always something that called both of us to create public art. We even met each other working on the Street. The objective that we always shared was to make street art for everyone, whether in mural format, urban intervention, or mosaic because we believe that it is the right place for MEDIANERAS. We consider that public art is the most honest way to create our artworks and that anyone has access to them. It is art for everyone. Medianeras was born with a shared desire to move and create our artworks in different places and for everybody.
BSA: The moment you paint on a wall on a building you’re immediately transforming the building and how the building is perceived by the people on the ground. How do the possibility of doing an intervention on any given building inform the theme and the execution of your work?
Medianeras: Our murals center on the representation of gender in its vast diversity. Although the works vary according to where they are located and how they are viewed, one of their standard features is faces whose gender is not necessarily distinct. Our theme corresponds closely to our way of thinking about gender. Throughout our education, we are taught what a man does and what a woman ought to do. However, in both our case as well as that of a broad range of human beings, gender is something that can change and be unable to adapt to this binary imposition. We want our works to convey the message of a broad concept of gender. We believe that once the rigorous distinction between men and women comes to an end, we will see the development of freer social relations and generations of people who are less concerned with what they should be and more attentive to what they could be.
In other words, we believe that by breaking these rigid and constrictive molds, we can overcome certain forms of discrimination, as well as roles imposed on us from the outside. Our works reflect individuals, poetically and visually transformed, who often struggle to break out of the molds in which they find themselves.
These molds are the architectures where they are found. That is why we like to make holes in the spaces, like breaking down the walls.
BSA: How do you view context when doing a mural? The context here includes not only the architectural structure that you are using as canvas but also the neighborhood where the said structure is located, as well as the city and indeed the country.
Medianeras: Before starting a design we try to inform ourselves as much as we can about society and the place such as the wall where we are going to paint the mural. In this research, we investigate the customs and characteristics of the culture and its history. We also make a virtual tour of the areas where the wall is located through google maps. This tool allows us to obtain some possible perspectives of the place. With a set of data that includes colors of the environment, the architecture of the place, or even stories, among many others, we create a sketch that is adjusted specifically for that particular surface (wall). That sketch can only be represented on that site since we think about it in relation to the architecture and the points of view from which it will be observed. Through our representations of diverse individuals, we convey an idea of inclusion and conviction about the ideals we stand for.
BSA: You are not afraid of color and geometry in your work. Your murals have almost a tri-dimensional depth, is this technique informed by your previous experiences in art making or was it born out from merging your talents together?
Medianeras: Both. We have enough knowledge to be able to bring to painting what we projected in the initial idea. Through the years, we have combined our styles in such a way as to arrive at what we currently do. Each project is a new challenge to integrate portraits into architectures, which are different in each case. We believe that we can achieve great complexities in the representation of depth thanks to the unification of our knowledge, both geometry and color and drawing.
We like to use the technique of anamorphosis. From one angle, one sees images of faces while, from another, one sees the distortion of these faces—the images reveal that they are illusions, something we believe is real, but that is not necessarily so. This is why we study the area around as well as the points of view from which the wall will be perceived: the image is conditioned both by the wall on which it will be displayed and the environment it is in.
Jim Bachor puts his mosaics in potholes. It is unusual for sure. Even absurd.
When it comes to the topic of ephemeral art, absurdity is part of the street art game.
“This work is my mark,” says Chicago street artist Jim Bachor, and he points to the ancient practice of making mosaics as his inspiration. The artist began his project of laying tiles in the street as a way to advertise his fine art website online but found the practice to be addictive. These days he doesn’t just create random images of a bag of chips or a bouquet, he’s tiling details of masterworks from the Art Institute of Chicago’s permanent collection.
He says he has developed a process of working in the broad daylight that makes him nearly invisible in a busy city and uses precautions not to get hit by cars because, “with two 16-year-old boys at home, I purposely avoid situations where the risk isn’t worth it.”
BSA talked with Bachor about his practice on the street, and how to have a sense of humor about it all.
BSA:Pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists all despise potholes; you on the other hand are attracted to them like urban pigeons are attracted to sidewalk pizza. The Biden administration just signed a milestone infrastructure bill…are you concerned you’ll run out of potholes?
JB: I am not. I think potholes are an unsolvable problem. Unless cities decide to pull up all their asphalt streets and replace them with expensive concrete ones the problem won’t go away. I sympathize with city governments; unless how streets are fabricated changes, it’ll remain an unsolvable problem. Plus fixing streets keeps people employed.
BSA:Have you ever traveled in time and found yourself thriving during the Byzantine Empire? The work of the mosaic artists from the 15th century is still assiduously studied today. Your work is far more ephemerous. Do you wish your potholes creations were preserved for future generations? Are you always cognizant of the fact that most likely your work will be destroyed?
JB: I have traveled back in time but much earlier, more like the height of the Roman Empire, maybe around the 1st century AD. While it would be great for my pothole art to last for generations, this itch is scratched with the majority of my other work which isn’t pothole art. My fine art pieces have the chance of lasting a very long time – all while still looking the same as when they were first created. I purposely keep most of my pothole art relatively simple to fabricate. I can’t sell the original artwork stuck in the ground, only limited edition prints of it.
BSA:Is it your intention to send messages to people with your art on the streets or are you looking to amuse them, make them smile, and inspire them?
JB: It’s really kind of to poke fun at ourselves and the times we live in. Juxtaposing potholes (which everybody hates) with unexpected subject matter that everyone loves (like junk food or flowers). Kinda like an Easter egg hunt. Unexpected grins. Someone once said that unexpectedly running across a piece of pothole art is like seeing Jesus’s face in a tortilla. Sounds about right.
BSA:The Greeks used mosaics to build roads; while they were at it, they figured, well let’s make patterns with the little pebbles we are using…you are filling potholes with mosaics on the streets also with patterns and images…do you find the similarity amusing?
JB: I’m not so sure about the premise of this question! Greeks did some of the earliest mosaics in pebbles but I never heard of them using them in the construction of roads. I’d need to see proof of this!
BSA:Are you aiming to simply repair roads with art while you are at it, or are you using the potholes as canvas, sort of site-specific installations and road reparation is the farthest thing in your mind?
JB: It’s truthfully a case of “potholes as a canvas.” The initial idea for the campaign was to hopefully draw attention to the artwork on my website (bachor.com). The repair wasn’t part of my thought process. Trying to draw attention to the pothole problem wasn’t part of my thought process. Pothole art is kinda like an open-air gallery that’s open 24 hours a day to anyone interested.
BSA: Have you ever gotten cease-and-desist letters from the municipalities to prevent you from creating art in their potholes? Do the authorities consider you a vandal?
JB: Never. I’ve never had direct contact with anyone in any city government. I’ve never heard anything directly from authorities about what they’ve thought about my work. However, once the New York City Department of Transportation learned of a campaign I did there (“Vermin of New York”) back in 2018 through a New York Post reporter – they pulled up all of my installs within a week! It’s the only time anything like this has ever happened.
BSA:Sometimes, you take inspiration from existing artworks to create your own works. Do you prefer pop and contemporary art, or do you feel equally comfortable with classic pieces of art when designing your mosaics to install on the streets?
JB: With the exception of my recent “Master Pieces” – which featured details of masterworks from the Art Institute of Chicago’s permanent collection – I really don’t look for inspiration from other people’s work. Although I know I’m inspired by what I’ve been exposed to in life I don’t go out of my way to look for inspiration. I think about ideas that are funny or interesting and just go from there. There’s certainly a nod to modern consumerism in some of my work that you can trace back to my years in the ad biz.
BSA:We find a sense of humor in some of your mosaics. Do you find yourself thinking that you are creating mischief on the streets with your art? Is that your intention? To be mischievous?
JB: Yes! I love the absurdity of it all. Who would spend all this time making a mosaic of a bag of Cheetos and then installing it in the street? Ridiculous. Fun. Unexpected. I like the idea of someone walking down the sidewalk and catching a glimpse of something in the street that shouldn’t be there. And it gets more interesting from there… Who doesn’t like an unexpected surprise?
BSA:When you make a mosaic on the streets in a pothole you leave it there. Can’t sell it. How do you finance your work? The cost of your materials?
JB: Yep. Each install runs about $100 in materials to produce. In the case of this year’s “Master Pieces” series, it was much more as they were fabricated entirely in expensive Italian glass. They are mostly self-financed. In the past, I’ve done Kickstarter campaigns to help pay for them. These days sales of limited edition prints of the pothole art installations help recoup costs and hopefully turn a profit.
BSA: We assume that your work is always illegal (if you were to wait for permits nothing would ever get done, correct?). Do you work under the cover of the night using a helmet light? When you work during the day without a permit, do you feel in danger from speeding cars, bicycles, skaters, and crazy drivers?
JB: If I had originally asked for permission from the city to do this we wouldn’t be having this conversation. The campaign would have never happened. I still don’t know if it’s illegal or not! My guess is if it were illegal I’d know about it by now. I started out doing installs at night to be covert about it. But it just looked more suspicious not less. I settled on mid-morning or mid-afternoon to avoid rush hours. People have their own lives to lead and if you look like you should be there no one notices or cares. Yes, there is an element of danger, but I try to be careful as this would be a really stupid way to die. Especially with two 16-year-old boys at home. I purposely avoid situations where the risk isn’t worth it.
BSA:People who live in a large, congested metropolis like NYC often find themselves coming out of the subway tunnels feeling a bit disoriented and not knowing North from South, therefore walking a long block before realizing that they are headed in the wrong direction. Can you think of a practical way of helping these poor, helpless souls find their way with your installations?
JB: I have thought about this as I’ve experienced being disoriented as you say. Why not simply install a giant N in the ground with an arrow pointing north? It would go a long way to quickly getting people where they want to go.
BSA:The end of winter is pothole heaven. Do you find yourself feeling restless come April?
JB: Like a squirrel that is hoarding nuts, I try and build up a supply of pothole art pieces over the winter. Once it (hopefully) warms up in April, I can hit the ground running.