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Home FEATURES Steve Powers: A Love Letter For You

Steve Powers: A Love Letter For You
Written by Adam Wallacavage   
Tuesday, 13 October 2009 09:54
Love Letter is literally a love letter painted on the walls facing the Market elevated train in Philadelphia.
Interview and photography by Adam Wallacavage

Steve Powers has the ability to say 10 things in one sentence, which is good when he is trying to paint something fast, especially large-scale murals. My first encounter with Mr. Powers was in Philadelphia about 17 or so years ago. He was working at a copy shop on Walnut Street. I was with my friend Shawn from school and I remember being both intimidated and amused at the same time. I didn't say anything to him, I just listened to him talk and was quite impressed with the words that came out of his mouth, they were hand crafted as if he was thinking about what he was going say all day and then unleashed it when we came in the store.

My next encounter with Steve was about 4 years later on Canal Street in NYC, I was introduced to him this time by Phil Frost where we were all talking in front of some guy's store who didn't like us being there. He told us to get off his sidewalk because we were keeping customers from coming in. Steve just smiled at him and yelled, "KICK MY ASS!" It was funny because Steve was wearing one of his trademark outfits consisting of some sort of colorful counter-fit designer clothing ensemble, which he probably bought from the same place the day before. I couldn't tell if the guy was going to burst out in tears, laughter, or with his fists flailing. It was perfectly intimidating and funny at the same time. He was saying so many things at once with that line as he does with just about everything he says. His words are a mixture of self-defense and ego but also sincere respect, understanding, and a bit of confrontation used in a way to bring light to situations, which need to be dealt with.

Last Winter I got an email from Steve saying to meet him, "tomorrow at noon" at some address in Philadelphia about taking photos for some project. I didn't bother asking him for what, I've seen enough from him in the past 15 years that I knew it was going be worth showing up for, and it was. What I met him for was a meeting about a grant from the Pew charitable trusts to do a project with the Philadelphia Mural Arts, which used to be known as the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network. The project was to be in part as a celebration of it's 25th Birthday, also marking 25 years of Steve's own 25th anniversary as a mural artist on a parallel yet opposite path. It took a while for the scale of the project to sink in, but with the first two murals done in June I knew this was going to be something never seen before on such a magnificent scale. In August, the project really got started. 10, 20, 30 murals in just a couple weeks with help from writers and artists from all over the country and as far as Hawaii gathered to write Love Letters to a fictional girl from a fictional guy for her to read as she takes the elevated subway line in West Philadelphia from 47th to 63rd and back again. Along with a movie being shot, almost 50 Love Letters are now complete.

I conducted this interview with Steve via text messaging. I thought it would be easy but not really. As much as he loves telling you what is going on in his head, it's impossible to gain direct access to his brain. Trying to be clever is pointless 'cause he knows what you are doing, so half of my questions were ignored, here's what I managed to get out of him.

Adam: Steve, Let's do an interview for Fecal Face over the next few days.

Steve: Bet

Adam: How do you feel about the Love Letter Project as you take the bus home?

Steve: I'm on Amtrak on the quiet car, trying to whisper and I got people complaining at me, "Your on the quiet car!" I say, "What" they repeat themselves louder, and I say, "Why are you yelling on the quiet car?" People just want a reason to be the police. Oh, the Love Letter? That's amazing. You notice how loud Philly sirens are? As loud as New York with NONE of the constant ambient noise NYC has. I'm trying to take a Philly ambulance on Amtrak quiet car, then you'll seeee.

Adam: How does Amtrak compare to Chinatown bus?

Steve: Amtrak has its faults, but you really feel special taking it. I think the stations are a big point of it, but being able to drink and stretch out is major, but when the schedule permits, busses are the truth. I caught the mega bus down here with the Nick - 6 bucks, and I booked a return we didn't use. but we were able to catch the Amtrak back for $45 each and I still feel like we got justice.

Adam: I don't understand why it is so expensive.

Steve: It's pegged more to the business traveler than to the commuter, which makes it prohibitive to most people. To me, to be back in NYC a half hour earlier when my time is worth $100 an hour there, it's a good deal.

Adam: $100 an hour is $2400 a day, I live a month on that in Philly in a big old house and take the $10 Chinatown bus to NYC so much that people think I live there. What am I missing?

Steve: Well really the off hours are free, so its only 1400 a day, and its not what the game charges me its what I charge the game. New York is a great place to make art, when I find time to make it. Then again, even the smallest moments yield important data for making art, and here when you speak you can speak to the world, and not have to raise your voice above a whisper. Oh, and being here and visiting are two different things.

Adam: Do you think Philly sirens are trying to speak to the world, screaming over whispers, or just trying to annoy the passengers on the Amtrak quiet car as the train travels through the city?

Steve: Huh? Sirens and voices on Amtrak can annoy people in similar ways, just breaking the noise threshold you're accustomed to.

Adam: Is having a tiny studio in Manhattan inspiring? I wonder if having too much room is actually counter productive. Sometimes it seems like the people with the most room and tools do the least amount of work. Unless of course it's the entire set of roof tops lining the West Philly EL.

Steve: Yeah, the world is my studio; the 800 sq ft box in Manhattan is just the launch pad. Although I love to work there, I'm usually on a jobsite somewhere else.. Whenever I'm traveling I want to be home and vice-versa. There's a ray Bradbury story about an astronaut with a similar mindset, it resonated with me even before I left home. The only tool you need to get work done is the desperate need to get work done. - Without that your fancy t-square can't help you

Adam: I was impressed by what you wrote in the jumble of letters in the "If you were here" wall. I had no idea about it for weeks after, yet I overheard you talking about how one of the neighbors asked you if you were going to paint a memorial that day. I thought you just brushed it off. The same goes for the subtle tributes you have been sliding into the murals. When does the word "scheme" come into play with your ideas? Is it towards the end of the thought process, or do you know what you are doing the whole time?

Steve: I scheme even in my dreams. I don't scheme on others, that's low rent. When I think of that I think of dudes trying to creep up and take your newspaper off your lawn. I like the spirit of getting what you need by any means, "getting over" if you will, but I'm bound by doing it in a way that doesn't fuck anybody over.

Love Letter is a project by Stephen Powers with the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and is sponsored by the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage through the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative. Generous support provided by the Brownstein Group and Septa.

Stephen J. Powers is a New York City artist who at one time wrote graffiti in Philadelphia and New York under the name ESPO ("Exterior Surface Painting Outreach"). He was most well known during the late 1990s for his conceptual pieces as well as his role as the editor and publisher of On the Go Magazine. He has shown at The Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, The 49th Venice Bienalle, The Luggage Store in San Francisco, and had his first museum solo show at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in 2007. In 2003, He founded the Dreamland Artist Club and partnered with Creative Time to commission over 45 artists to paint signs and rides in Coney Island. This past summer he returned to Coney Island with Creative Time and opened The Waterboard Thrill Ride. As a 2008 Fulbright Scholar, Powers painted a love story in the streets of Dublin and Belfast. He lives and works in Manhattan.

http://www.aloveletterforyou.com/

To view more of the Philly murals, check here. {moscomment}

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contact FF

Alex Ziv in Berkeley Saturday
Thursday, 24 April 2014 09:31

Alex Ziv who we showed last year in Going Nowhere with Mario Ayala opens a solo show featuring new works at The League in Berkeley this Saturday 4/26. ~see some of Ziv's new works

 

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Wednesday, 16 June 2010 16:39


Check please with Ryan Travis Christian
Wednesday, 23 April 2014 09:23

CHICAGO --- Ryan Travis Christian opens his second solo show Check please with Western Exhibitions this Friday, April 25th featuring graphite on paper drawings of his signature cartoon-style alongside a second suite of works on paper and sculptures that employ color. ~show details

Photos from his 2011 show at Guererro Gallery - Photos from his 2012 Halsey McKay show in New York - he curated this show for FFDG in '11

Ryan Travis Christian April 25th at Western Editions, Chicago

 

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Wednesday, 25 April 2012 10:56

 

Ryan De La Hoz at Seattle's Flatcolor
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Working in unconventional mediums such as woven blankets, puzzles, and faux marble, De La Hoz has pioneered an innovative style in a class of its own. Collages of white noise, flowers and tie-dye are all hand cut and assembled to create mystic portals of intrigue. Heavily influenced by themes of death and rebirth, past and present, and the collision of modern culture with antiquity; Form and Void is mysterious look into the odyssey of creation, destruction, and an examination of society at large. -show details

 

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"Arrangement" by Michelle Fleck
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This morning we take a closer look at this beautiful painting by San Francisco based Michelle Fleck now showing at FFDG.

Arrangement measures 24"x30", acrylic and aerosol on panel - inquires: info(at)ffdg.net

Michelle Fleck is a painter living in San Francisco. Her work focuses on the relationship between man and the landscape, and the marks we leave on it. Influenced by everyday life in the city, her paintings serve as snapshots of an ongoing intersection of the natural and man-made world. She strives to make work that has a sense of relevancy in a culture driven by a need for change and newness.

 

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GET THE SHOW DETAILS --- a bunch of NYCHOS

 

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I love you, dear.... Huh? Wut?

 

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Check photos from his last San Francisco solo show in 2012, and mark your calendar for August as his next solo show opens at FFDG.

Beering with Fish at his favorite watering hole, Zeitgeist

 

Statue Of A Homeless Jesus Startles A Wealthy Community
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Sculpture of Jesus as homeless and sleeping on a park bench is "freaking out" the neighbors of this wealthy NC suburb. The sculptor, who has an affinity for street art, created it to remind us that "We believe that that's the kind of life Jesus had," Buck says. "He was, in essence, a homeless person." ~READ ON

 

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Wednesday, 25 August 2010 11:50


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BANDES DE PUB / STRIP BOX

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Matt Wagner recently emailed over some photos from The Hellion Gallery in Tokyo, who recently put together a show with AJ Fosik (Portland) called Beast From a Foreign Land. The gallery gave twelve of Fosik's sculptures to twelve Japanese artists (including Hiro Kurata who is currently showing in our group show Salt the Skies) to paint, burn, or build upon.


Ferris Plock - Online Show, April 25th

FFDG is pleased to announce an exclusive online show with San Francisco based Ferris Plock opening on Friday, April 25th (12pm Pacific Time) featuring 5 new medium sized acrylic paintings on wood.


GOLD BLOOD, MAGIC WEIRDOS

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Jeremy Fish at LA's Mark Moore Gallery

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John Felix Arnold III on the Road to NYC

Well, John Felix Arnold III is at it again. This time, he and Carolyn LeBourgios packed an entire show into the back of a Prius and drove across the country to install it at Superchief Gallery in NYC. I met with him last week as he told me about the trip over delicious burritos at Taqueria Cancun (which is right across the street from FFDG and serves what I think is the best burrito in the city) as the self proclaimed "Only overweight artist in the game" spilled all the details.


FRENCH in Melbourne

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Henry Gunderson at Ever Gold, SF

Ever Gold opened a new solo show by NYC based Henry Gunderson a couple Saturday nights ago and it was literally packed. So packed I couldn't actually see most of the art - but a big crowd doesn't seem like a problem. I got a good laugh at what I would call the 'cock climbing wall' as it was one of the few pieces I could see over the crowd. I haven't gotten a chance to go back and check it all out again, but I'm definitely going to as the paintings that I could get a peek at were really high quality and intruiguing. You should do the same.


Mario Wagner @Hashimoto

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Serge Gay Jr. @Spoke Art

The paintings in the show are each influenced by a musician, ranging from Freddy Mercury, to Madonna, to A Tribe Called Quest and they are so stylistically consistent with each musician's persona that they read as a cohesive body of work with incredible variation. If you told me they were each painted by a different person, I would not hesitate to believe you and it's really great to see a solo show with so much variety. The show is fun, poppy, very well done, and absolutely worth a look and maybe even a listen.


NYCHOS Mural on Ashbury and Haight

NYCHOS completed this great new mural on the corner of Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco on Tuesday. Looks Amazing.


Sun Milk in Vienna

With rising rent in SF and knowing mostly other young artists without capitol, I desired a way to live rent free, have a space to do my craft, and get to see more of the world. Inspired by the many historical artists who have longed similar longings I discovered the beauty of artist residencies. Lilo runs Adhoc Collective in Vienna which not only has a fully equipped artists creative studio, but an indoor halfpipe, and private artist quarters. It was like a modern day castle or skate cathedral. It exists in almost a utopic state, totally free to those that apply and come with a real passion for both art and skateboarding


"How To Lose Yourself Completely" by Bryan Schnelle

I just wanted to share with you a piece I recently finished which took me 4 years to complete. Titled "How To Lose Yourself Completely (The September Issue)", it consists of a copy of the September 2007 issue of Vogue magazine (the issue they made the documentary about) with all faces masked with a sharpie, and everything else entirely whited out. 840 pages of fun. -Bryan Schnelle


Tyler Bewley ~ Recent Works

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Kirk Maxson and Alexis Mackenzie at Eleanor Harwood Gallery

While walking our way across San Francisco on Saturday we swung through the opening receptions for Kirk Maxson and Alexis Mackenzie at Eleanor Harwood Gallery in the Mission.


Jeremy Fish Solo Show in Los Angeles

Jeremy Fish opens Hunting Trophies tonight, Saturday April 5th, at the Los Angeles based Mark Moore Gallery. The show features new work from Fish inside the "hunting lodge" where viewers climb inside the head of the hunter and explore the history of all the animals he's killed.


The Albatross and the Shipping Container

Beautiful piece entitled "The Albatross and the Shipping Container", Ink on Paper, Mounted to Panel, 47" Diameter, by San Francisco based Martin Machado now on display at FFDG. Stop in Saturday (1-6pm) to view the group show "Salt the Skies" now running through April 19th. 2277 Mission St. at 19th.


The Marsh Barge - Traveling the Mississippi River from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico

For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to quit my job, move out of my house, leave everything and travel again. So on August 21, 2013 I pushed a canoe packed full of gear into the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Lake Itasca, Minnesota, along with four of my best friends. Exactly 100 days later, I arrived at a marina near the Gulf of Mexico in a sailboat.


Flavio Samelo's Downtown Sao Paulo Murals

Our buddy Flavio Samelo down there in Brazil does all kinds of great work including this recent mural project in downtown Sao Paulo in front of one of the most important modern buildings of Oscar Niemeyer from the 60's, THE COPAN.


John Trippe, FFDG and Fecalface.com Founder, Stepping Down From Daily Operations

John Trippe, founder, owner and curator of FecalFace.com and the Mission District art gallery FFDG, announced today that he will stepping down from daily operations of the two ventures to seek new career opportunities.


High 5s - Get Your Feet Wet

I purchased one of the first digital cameras when Fecal Face went online in 2000. It was a massive Kodak with 2 mega pixels


"Touching Base" by Schuyler Beecroft

San Francisco based Schuyler Beecroft emailed over the great new series of paintings he's completed entitled "Touching Base", 16x20in on mounted wood panel. Like them.


Flume - Space Cadet (ft. Ghostface Killah & Autre Ne Veut)

Buddies Jay Howell & Jim Dirschberger did this great video produced by Forest City Rockers.


Fire Shelter for Papay Gyro Nights 2014

Last year we posted photos from another one of Simon Hjermind Jensen's Fire Shelters he's made in Copenhagen. This time around the Copenhagen based artist/ designer created one for the Papay Gyro Nights 2014 way up in on the Orkney Islands in Northern Scotland.


"Portrait of a Slugger 19" by Hiro Kurata

Beautiful painting by NYC based Hiro Kurata now on display at SF's FFDG through April 19th as part of the group show "Salt the Skies".


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