Like most evenings, I was drinking. In fact, I was on my second cocktail as I borrowed my girlfriend’s laptop to pull up the New York Times website. I have an unfortunate desire to know what’s going on in the world, and when this collides with my other charming yet unfortunate need for bourbon, well, I—on the occasion—can go ballistic. Hence the street name, Jilly Ballistic.
Three sips in, the homepage loads and as I thank the Internet gods for a properly working connection, there it was: the Wall Street Bull wrapped tail to snout in cheerful pink, purple and blue wool. The photograph linked to the ARTS section featured article: Graffiti’s Cozy, Feminine Side . I wanted to vomit.
Neither my girlfriend nor I have a subscription to the Times, so each click is like a condensed version of Sophie’s Choice. Do I dare sacrifice one of my 20 allotted viewings on this particular topic? In this case, there was no questioning. I dove in knowing very well that the shallow bottom of the pool would leave me with grievous injuries, hopefully none to the face.
The ladies in the article knit. The ladies “yarn bomb,” though Olek, a NYC-based knitter and artist, doesn’t really like the phrase, as she finds it too aggressive. They find objects, like a mailbox or the statue of Rocky next to Philly’s Museum of Art, and cover it with some hot needle action. Don’t get me wrong, these ladies are talented. Extremely talented. This is a legitimate trend in street art, and it certainly helps people enjoy mailboxes more than they usually do. So why did I feel such a sting of anger? Why was I being a cynical jerk, thinking cynical jerk thoughts? I did some soul-searching, and it wasn’t the gang of rogue knitters and their art. My issue was with the NYTimes.
I’m a born and raised New Yorker, that’s 28 years here. I read this paper nearly every day and this just may be the first time I’ve ever seen exclusively women street artists featured. And I have a sneaking suspicion this sudden attempt at diversity may be only because the subject matter involved knitting. No words to incite emotion. No visual image to stir up the blood. Some good ol’ fashioned, self-described “grandma” knitting. Innovative, yes. Witty, check. Cuddly, too. I mean, go and look at that bull. Makes you actually hate Merrill Lynch a little less. Just a little.
The NYTimes featured street art, featured women—but fell mightily short. I needed a call to action. I wanted a counter-article that cried out, Not all of us knit, goddamn it! “Us” in this instance being graffiti artists, street artists, vandals, thought provokers— who are women, and also queer. I realized, hell, I wanted an article on what LGBT graff means. I wanted you to want to know.
Let’s head to San Francisco, shall we? Sound good? Good. I recently contacted Jeremy Novy, stencil artist by way of Wisconsin, who also goes by CAB — Cock and Balls.
Jeremy’s style is gritty, overtly sexual and honest. For a decade, his street art has confronted homophobia and anti-gay politics head-on with images of drag queens and male wrestlers. He’s not big on donating time and money to activist organizations to wipe out hate; the way he sees it, the way to equality is simple economics and your time is money well spent. “Your $500 donation turns into something like this,” he says. “$250 for rent on their building, $100 for stationary and postal stamps, $100 for payroll on the people who just entered your donation into the computer files and then $50 may actually do something activist or for the cause. For $50 bucks I can get a can of spray paint, 250 sheets of 11×17 paper and a box of wallpaper paste. That can educate the city on anything I feel is important.” The boy is an old fashioned guerrilla at heart.
Listen close now. Here’s where you can get your queer street art fill. In fact, your cup will overflow with all the queeryness. A History of Queer Street Art went up this Saturday, June 4th in San Francisco, and the pieces are all still on display! Put this in your iPhone, or tablet or just get some paper and a magnet for your fridge: A History of Queer Street Art, curated by Jeremy. The space is be covered with graffiti donated by LGBT and LGBT friendly street artists (like Space Invader and FAILE) from ALL OVER THE WORLD. The work exhibited includes a multitude of mediums like classic spray painted murals, to paste-ups, stickers and stencils—the theme? Confronting hate, the best way you can: you doing you. The artists were asked to submit their fiercest pieces. Want a preview? Check it out here. Here’s a really gay list of some participating gays you can follow and support with all your gay love:
Adrian + Shane
Paul Le Chein (NSFW)
Blanche + Rico
And then there’s me!
Yes, I donated. Three pieces. How could I not? This is a one of a kind event, a collection of street art featuring the LGBT community. Nice, right? And if you can’t be there, be sure to check out A History of Queer Street Art anyways.