Spin’s Barbershop has a rotating display of art on the walls, and the latest set caught my eye a few weeks back, as I sat in the chair under the blade.
“What’s the story with the art,” I asked.
So he tells me.
Ow and Phantom attend a local high school and produced art, which they distributed for free.
Where “distributed” meant “stuck in public places that seemed that they might benefit, in the artist’s aesthetic opinion, from the addition of said stickers”.
Then, Ow got caught. A couple of times.
“What happened,” he explained, “is basically I got caught a couple of times (by property owners, police, and my mom, who saw me putting up stickers). My mom, fed up with ‘this sticker business’, decided to take all of my sticker making supplies away. This was only momentarily discouraging.”
So Ow and Phantom did what any normal, well-adjusted high school student would do.
No, that doesn’t mean “disappear into the basement to play video games, send text messages and send regrettable selfies until college”. It means they called up local businesses looking for somewhere legitimate to display their art. Spin answered the call.
“We told Spin the story, and he asked to see a sample of our art. We showed it to him and he liked it so we set up our art show,” he continued.
“I started making ‘street art’ in middle school, intrigued by others in my classes doing graffiti on tables. Early tag names included ‘game’, ‘take’ toke’, ‘who was here’ and ‘spez’. I used to hold ‘graffiti offs’ where friends and I would do pieces on paper and compare them, giving each one a score. Most of the illegal art I started with was me scratching off signs and editing them to say things like ‘push buttocks for signal’. I’ve been putting up characters under the name ‘OW’ since November 2012.
“Some artists that really inspired me are: Comfy, Starheadboy, and Abot. I used to see their characters around and point them all out to friends saying ‘look at that awesome sticker’, scheming in my head ways to emulate their styles and become even bigger and better than them….Actually I still point their stickers out, and I still scheme.”
Now, having lived through the “clean pole Wallingford” days, plus having seen the impact graffiti has had on our neighborhood, I know what you’re thinking: “this is vandalism, not art! How can Wallyhood take such a cavalier attitude towards these miscreants.”
“I’ve always thought of stickers as being much less offensive than spraypaint,” Owen feels. “I notice people in general spend a lot of time on stickers and they generally look nice. However that’s not to say that there aren’t nice spraypaint pieces out there…”
I’ve got a feeling that there will be a certain amount of negative response in the comments to the “it’s OK, it’s only public property” line of reasoning.
And the future for these boys?
“I definitely see myself making art for the rest of my life,” says Ow. “For me, there’s no reason not to. And only the future will tell where I will go with it. I’d like to experiment with animation at some point, so maybe in 10 years I’ll be ready. For now, I try to focus on the present and focus on whatever ideas I currently have.”
Art on display at Spin’s Barber Shop (4501 Interlake Ave N).