Under the rays of the hot July sun Rochester’s South Wedge was filled with the rattle of spray cans and multicolored clouds of misty paint. In its third year, the Wall/Therapy event finally made its mark on the city’s South side with more than 10 world renowned street artists creating original pieces throughout the neighborhood. The initiative describes itself as “a public community-level intervention using mural art as a vehicle to address our collective need for inspiration.” The South Wedge Quarterly caught up with local artist Mr. Prvrt to discuss his contributions to the neighborhood, his first introductions to graffiti, and his deeper connection to the walls he paints.
SWQ: Can you give us a little bit of your history? How did you get into painting? What was your first introduction to the graffiti/street art world?
Mr Prvrt: While I have called Rochester home for about 7 years now, I grew up and went to school in Albany, NY. My first introduction to stencils was during college when I had been doing a lot of printmaking, and stumbled on to stencils as a cheap means of printmaking without the need for a gigantic printing press. The first exposure I had to stencils as a means of street art was through the work that Chris Stain and Brian Scout had been doing at the time in one of Albany’s most neglected neighborhoods. In a city with very little graffiti, let alone street art, their way of targeting abandoned houses and other derelict buildings taught me a lot about the idea of using graffiti as a means of bringing something positive into a neighborhood. It was an amazing feeling to welcome Stain to Rochester for Wall Therapy, and see life start to come full circle more than a decade later.
“Especially in a city environment, people lose sight of the fact that we share our space with other species, and many times forget they play a role in our world all together.”
What first brought you to Rochester?
I initially moved here to pursue one of many artistic endeavors that, in the end, did not pan out. The longer I have stayed, the better this city has been to me, and the more I have grown to love it. Each of my 7 years here has brought me bigger and better things; needless to say, I’ve been enjoying the journey!
Where do you look to for inspiration? Are there any particular artists (street art or not) that inform your style?
Most of my inspiration comes from the artists I keep company with. Big props to Sweet Meat Co, FUA Krew, FFL, Chase the Art, 1975 Gallery, The Yards, Wall Therapy, and most recently The Bushwick Collective. I consider myself privileged to be a part of so many things happening in our city, and it’s been amazing to watch them all take root, thrive, and constantly grow.
Can you talk about your focus on animal portraits? Is it a conscious decision to bring creatures of the wild to an urban setting or more of an aesthetic choice?
Early experiences of growing up on a farm and spending two weeks in Kenya when I was six did a lot to foster a connection to animals that has echoed throughout my whole life. I often feel that the faces of animals, especially the eyes, can seem more expressive than those of people; or that the fact we can’t read their emotions directly just makes them all the more intriguing. More recent experiences, like painting pro bono murals with Sarah Rutherford at Wild Wings Bird of Prey Sanctuary (located in Mendon Ponds), have also helped show me the way my work can also play a larger role in terms of education and awareness. Especially in a city environment, people lose sight of the fact that we share our space with other species, and many times forget they play a role in our world all together. The species I chose to paint for Wall Therapy in particular, are species that we can easily find not far beyond the fringes of our city, and we pushed them to those fringes in order to make this place ours.
You’re known for your elaborate stencil paintings. Can you describe the process a little? What attracts you to this style of painting, and what makes this approach different from other styles?
I started cutting stencils about 12 years ago, and since then I have known very little else. While stenciling is in essence a very rudimentary process, I find there is endless room for experimentation, and I’ve always been excited by finding new ways to push the medium. Most recently, I began exploring the process of creating the same aesthetic of layering flat colors to create a sense of volume, but without using any stencils at all. Artistically, this has been very freeing, not only in terms of the time commitment necessary to cut stencils, but also being able to paint something the size of an entire building, without any of the inherent logistical issues of a massive stencil.
Do you see your street paintings directly linked to the building or wall you’re working with? How is the process different when preparing work for a more traditional gallery setting?
I have always thought that the wall makes its own decisions as to what I’m going to paint on it. As cheesy as it sounds, I need to physically touch a wall and have a silent dialogue. It’s often very important to me that my painting do something to compliment the environment and aesthetic of the wall itself.
I read that you’re a “proud art school dropout.” Do you have issues with the junction of art and higher education or was the decision more personal?
I still remember one of my professors telling me I couldn’t use spray paint for my assignments because it wasn’t painting unless I was using a brush. I think the most important things I got from school were the discipline to commit myself to my work and the ability to look to my peers for inspiration. My decision to leave school before getting my Bachelor’s degree came when I decided that, if I was going to follow this path, whether or not I succeeded wouldn’t be based on my college degree, it would be based on the merit of my work. I stopped doing homework assignments and started making art.
Check out Mr. Prvrt’s contributions to South Wedge Wall/Therapy at 433 South Ave. and on the corner of Comfort St. and South Ave.