As a graffiti artist that has been wanting to flex my creative muscles again after a 15 year break to become a doctor and teacher, I am thankful for the help of Jeffrey Miller from the White Space Gallery in Portland, Oregon’s Pearl District for the support. After a rather large turnout for my first ever showing of graffiti art on canvas in August, Jeffery Miller has asked me to have another show for January’s first Thursday art walk in NW Portland. The show is on January 2, 2014 6pm at the White Space Gallery.
Why do I do graffiti?
I grew up in Queens, NY and in 1983 I started writing graffiti with spray paint, markers and what ever else I could get my hands on. Why? because that is what kids in my neighborhood were doing at the time. Shortly after I starting tagging, I did my first 3 color “piece”. I was then inspired to gravitate more toward the art side of graffiti by the books Getting up, Subway Art and Spray Can Art. Then the movie Style Wars was released, which I believe was instrumental for the world wide spread of hip hop culture!
Life got heavy and I got Greedy
For more than a decade I was tagging and doing more elaborate graffiti art pieces in the New York area on streets, roof tops, trucks, train stations, and freight trains. By the time I really got into graffiti the last of the painted subway trains were being kept clean. I did some painting on the NYC subway system but not enough to claim anything. I did it more for the experience rather than trying to get known for it.
Along with me becoming known as a graffiti artist in NY, life got a little more dangerous. Neighborhood and graffiti rivalry was increasing and there was a lot of violence, drug dealing and guns involved with the graffiti fame. Since I was one of the more visible artists out of my crew in Queens, NY (KAC) I became one of the targets of the neighborhood.
In 1995, after a few personal tragedies, I decided to leave NYC and move to Los Angeles to do something that I was toying with for a few years: becoming a doctor. I was truly Greedy, I wanted to make a more comfortable lifestyle for myself by becoming a professional, the first ever in my family. When I first moved to LA I had a few connections from NY who I started hanging out with. MQUE DMS and Claw TC5 introduced me to Just 195 and Toomer TKO. Within a few months of being in Los Angeles and painting with the above graffiti writers, I was grabbed and cataloged by the LA gang task force unit. I realized then that I needed to drop the graffiti art and make a new life with people that I was in school with, or else I might not make it out of school with the clean record needed to be a doctor.
The return of Greed!
I made it though school, got my doctorate, went on for another three years after that to obtain a Diplomate degree to teach holistic Medicine. Straight out of school I worked in the Beverly Hills Area of Los Angeles for about a year. I then moved to Portland, Oregon to start a practice and to become a teaching assistant.
Through the years I doodled here and there on paper with my art. I did some pencil and charcoal sketches and female nudes. Then a friend of mine who is an owner of a night club in downtown Portland and knew about by past graffiti art. The club owner commissioned me to paint for a party there. I accepted and when I did the paintings, the great feeling I would get when I used to spray paint art immediately came back. At that point I realized that I needed to have a Greed comeback. I realized that I have always been an artist. I became a doctor and a teacher but I’m really an artist and I have to use that part of me to fulfill my life!
In the past few years of painting I have traveled to paint in Seattle, San Francisco, Miami, Toronto, Denver and more. I am grateful for the help I’ve had from old and new friends who support me as an artist. I can never shut that part of me down again.
What does graffiti mean to me?
To me graffiti is about the letters, the fonts. They need to have life. They need to have energy and potential movement. A truly great graffiti artist can paint in only black and white but still mesmerize you with the structure, potential energy and style of the letters! Color, scenery and special effects are secondary. Street art (ex: Bansky) is not graffiti. It is street art. Graffiti is based on letters. They are just two different things.
I am not a great artist. There are kids who went to art school and/or have much more talent than I do. Some of these people have great “graffiti” art abilities and I respect that and like to look at it. But for me an important part of being a graffiti artist is having talent and going through the school of hard knocks. I grew up doing art illegally just because I wanted to, just for my enjoyment and for respect from the small niche of people who also followed what I did and understood why I did it. I’ve been in some of the worst neighborhoods in the country late at night, climbing buildings, fences, going into train tunnels. I’ve been chased, caught, and assaulted by police, gang members, and just average angry people who protested my vandalism just so that I can get my name on a wall, truck, rooftop, train or what ever. That is a true graffiti artist.
I don’t claim to be the baddest, the best or the most well known. I am just Greed. I Tried to change my life to be a successful and good citizen but what it all comes down to is that graffiti makes me feel alive. I don’t do it illegally anymore. I don’t need to because I don’t need that type of thrill anymore. I just want to paint on walls or what ever else is fun for me. My only goal is to make myself happy and to make people stop and look at what I’ve done… even if they can’t read it.