On the cover: Mirror by Pose
Tell us about the creation of our cover artwork, Mirror
The place and time in which Mirror was created weren’t very exotic. They were pretty typical of my work environment these days, sitting in the studio trying to crack the code, so to speak. I had just completed a series of paintings inspired by car wrecks as well as a series based on feuding neighbours and borders. So I was returning to portraiture with a bit more I wanted to say.
You were arrested for graffiti-ing when you were starting out. How do you look back on those days?
Some of the best years of my life. In the traditional graffiti world, you can’t reap rewards without taking risks: the more you give, the more you get. For a troubled kid with no positive outlet, applying myself to this theory was transformative.
How is your art a coping mechanism for your OCD?
I have been managing severe OCD for most of my life. Not the cute “I wash my hands a lot” kind, but the “spirals into schizophrenia when unmanaged” kind. I believe the cocktail of heavy drug experimentation and severe brain trauma from a near-fatal car wreck were what kicked it all off. After hospitalisation and professional help, I found a way to manage my condition by transferring the whole disorder into graffiti. If I am not immersed in art to manage my OCD, things get out of line really quickly.
Your hometown of Chicago seems to be an inspiration. How has it changed in your lifetime?
It has been devastating to see many communities systematically crushed by oppressive social engineering, particularly on the south and west side. If you have a humanitarian bone in your body, Chicago looks pretty fucked up. It’s one of the most racially diverse cities in the US, but also the second most racially segregated, and we have the largest racially based economic disparity.
The city saw President Obama’s farewell address in January. How do you feel about his departure and the arrival of Donald Trump?
I will try and find a silver lining. I could say I’m happy that opponents of Trump are inspired to fight for what they believe in, but I’m concerned that a lot of this reaction will fall into banner waving and vapid venting. Just as social media has become a democratic amplifier for our voices, it creates a deafening impotence when it comes to tangible results. If the intent of communication was to draw your bow, shoot the arrow and hit a bullseye, at times social media removes the target without the shooter knowing. It feels great to fire off thousands of arrows, but it’s important to focus on the target before releasing them.
My mom used to organise Obama fundraisers when he was running for senate in 2003. I loved what him being president meant to people. Now I have to navigate my daughter coming home crying saying that the president is going to take her friends away. It’s crushing that my six-year-old has a better grasp on basic human morality than the president of the United States of America.
What other news story between January and March particularly grabbed your attention?
It was more a realisation that I was becoming obsessed with all the latest news fed to me through my phone. I’ve never been this way, and until recently I wasn’t conscious that the information I receive all day is curated for me based on algorithms attempting to sell me more stuff. Even without these algorithms we naturally make the same selections, reading and experiencing what we already like and agree with. In all other areas of life, I push myself into the areas that are difficult, scary and foreign, as a means to learn and grow, so why am I not doing the same thing when it comes to the news? I’m now attempting to diversify the information I’m bombarding myself with each day.
What’s next for you? Do you have any plans for new work?
I’m working on a series of paintings and sculptures that explore the origins of early American graffiti, based around narratives of New York and Philadelphia wall writers from the late 1960s to early 1970s. I’m also diving head-first into the possibilities of new technology. I am partnering with a company to explore the new artistic possibilities working in AR, VR, 3d scanning and printing. Lastly, I’m partnering with my friend Anthony Curis from Library Street Collective in a new exhibition and edition gallery venture, Louis Buhl & Co in Detroit.
You can see more of POSE’s work at hellopose.com
Slow Journalism in your inbox, plus infographics, offers and more: sign up for the free DG newsletter. Sign me up
Thanks for signing up.