External critics may never be as brutal as your internal one – but graffiti and street art sometimes reveals a specifically vicious world of criticism that greets artists and writers. Imagine making friends with those critics and validating their position, and then moving on unscathed or even healed.
“Overall, the project is meant to inspire those who may take criticism to heart,” says street artist HOTTEA, and he means it as a form of sweet liberation, not a bitter one.
Despite the frigid temperatures and the fact that he is working in Minnesota, HOTTEA has created 6 new installations that may warm your heart this winter, if not your fingers and toes. Using the same digitally inspired grid that is informed by a lifetime of looking at screens, this 90s kid places fluorescent magnetic blocks side by side and hits them with light, so his pieces beam like a glow-stick billboard.
The words he’s spelling are part of his campaign. “The reason I chose the words I did ( DUMB, NUDE, EASY, TYPE, YAWN, HEAL) was to create a commentary between the critic and the artist,” he says.
“I chose DUMB, EASY, and YAWN as words used by critics to describe my work. I chose NUDE, TYPE, and HEAL to describe what influences my art and the concepts I work with within my installations.”
Call the series “Facing Your Critics,” if you will: using the very platform and methods you make art with to confront the issues that come up while creating it as a form of meta-therapy.
Even the materials are under scrutiny. Having moved from aerosol to yarn about a decade ago, HOTTEA withstood plenty of derisive peer reviews that openly questioned his credibility and even his right to work on the street. Here he chooses another material, magnets – and in some cases – magnetic paint to prep the surface. Not only is a typical tagger going to trash him for not being authentically “street” enough, but formal institutional scholars may also dismiss him for not being a true artist.
“Just like yarn,” he says. “magnets are looked upon as a material that is related to lowbrow art – or even less – not a material at all for the means of creating art.”
As a final possible dismissal source for this street artist, he chooses one location decidedly not urban; an abandoned farmhouse. “I painted the entire wall with magnetic paint,” he says, “…then stenciled an ornate floral stencil on it with fluorescent orange spray paint to make it look like wallpaper.”
If any of these works trigger you, you may be one of the critics he’s reaching out to. The video he created (below) for the project features a sped-up chipmunk voice used to emulate those critics in the back of his head. It’s a brilliant personification that is humorous and annoying simultaneously. He answers each one patiently, almost plaintively, while the project’s visual aspects unfold across the screen.
And then he lets it go.