I’m not a famous photographer. I’m not a famous graffiti artist. My accomplishments are hardly remarkable, nor of notable significance, really. At least in any regard other than triumph over personal adversity. And, who genuinely cares about that? I mention this only to provide contrast to the serendipitous opportunities that happen to come my way every now and again.
Above all qualities I find essential in the success of art, creativity will forever be most important. I’m not too keen on technical skill, process or mastery of medium. Give me a clever idea with deliberate execution and I’m satisfied. As far as graffiti is concerned, no one is currently more expressively proficient, prolific or conceptually profound than Mr. Lush. A fervent supporter of his creative madness and overall genius, I am an ardent follower of his Flickr page:
Consequently, when I noticed that he had landed on the Eastern seaboard, I reached out to a mutual friend who relayed my interest in collaborating on the documentation of his creative process. A couple of months passed, and while I’d never expected much to come of it, I surely did receive a message from the monster of chaos himself, Lush. I had casually offered my apartment’s rooftop as the setting for a piece, and was pleasantly surprised when he accepted the invitation. I was elated by the thought of having such rare privilege to meet with an artist I considered one of the contemporary kings of graffiti. Hoping to (at least momentarily) capture this traditionally transient art form in a manner of relative permanence, I anxiously awaited further details.
When I arranged the rendezvous in the subway station I was unsure what to expect, nor how to mentally prepare. Lush was an unknown quantity of the highest order. Online, he projected a persona that made it evident this was consciously calculated and, likely, an aspect he relished. A loose description given by our mutual friend provided some basis upon which I could concoct a rough, imaginary, character sketch. Lush’s thematically, and contextually, dark artwork led me to the presumption that he embodied certain nefarious, malevolent qualities. While, on the surface, this was not entirely incorrect, as a completely considered human Lush has an irrefutable talent and surprisingly comprehensive emotional intelligence. In a graffiti universe densely cluttered with washed-up starjunk, Lush is a brilliant, hedonistic supernova.
What I observed most readily about Lush’s personality was his steady, calm demeanor. Since he seemingly resides comfortably within the carrion of society, I anticipated his character would reflect the spirit of this social environment. With Lush, this was surprisingly not so. On several occasions throughout the day he displayed a remarkably humble, grounded perspective. His ideology firmly rooted in a world defined by its embrace of realism rather than pessimism. After hours of conversation, I learned this was a testament to the strength of his familial upbringing. Not in wealth or social status, however, but in ideas. His artwork and expanding creative abilities clearly benefited by early, repetitive exposure to the belief that anything is possible.
Lush’s works are easily attributed to an artist that has lives life fully. An artist that welcomes stimulus and inspiration from every conceivable type of experience. After spending several hours with this creature, I can confidently qualify this an accurate summary. Lush doesn’t take anything for granted. Coexisting with anyone of such description is electrifying. And, it helps to explain the source of our polarized reactions to his artistic products.
One of the tangible benefits of being an artist on the periphery of cultural norms is the unbridled freedom to paint what you want. Accordingly, even in spite of my personal connection with abortion, I couldn’t bring myself to attempt to edit or censor his expression. Even considering the predominantly Catholic, Spanish community that surrounds my apartment, I couldn’t muster the courage or desire to request alternate subject matter. For I absolutely refuse to tamper with the delicate nature of artistic integrity.
The finished product is at once beautiful and striking. It effortlessly evokes an irreversible emotional response. Like everything Lush puts his hands to, it’s execution is considered and deliberate. It’s message is sardonic, sarcastic and intentionally abrasive; qualities I’ve come to admire in art. The commentary on status quo and acceptable societal mores is overt, but shouldn’t be misinterpreted. Lush has an appreciation for life and existence that you wouldn’t glean from looking at his work with clinical perspective. His appreciation for subtlety and nuance make his work exponentially more complex than 99% of modern American graffiti. And, of course, that has everything to do with the fact that Lush is decidedly un-American.