With the Thanksgiving break in full swing, I find myself stuck eating turkey and watching football with the fam' ... all the while festivities at Art Basel Miami have already commenced. I complained to my dad about missing out on all the action beginning; I was dying (first-world problems, I know).
Fast forward two weeks ...
... and after self-administering a dose of "happy thoughts of the anticipated Art Basel experience," the blips on my figurative EKG were starting to peak and dip erratically. Watching some of the Sold Magazine crew living it up at Basel through their Instagram feeds got me super excited as I patiently waited to board my flight in Boston. This was going to be my first time (and certainly not my last), so I was determined to make the most of this experience!
The first night was spent planning out my Wynwood schedule. I couldn't get in a wink because my mind was racing thinking about everything I wanted to see and do. Sorry, not sorry to my dad because the artist My Dog Sighs told me that he was going to start painting early at around 5:30AM. With an early call time combined with my dad's tendency to sleep in, I wasn't confident we would get there on time. Surprisingly enough, at about 5:30, my brother (@dysastrophy) woke up our dad by pouncing on him. 15 minutes later, still dark out, we arrived on site and saw My Dog Sighs already working on his mural with Snub_23.
He had a baffled look on his face and asked why my brother and me were here so early ... to which I replied, "You told us you were going to be here".
Breaking the ice after a bit of a laugh, I asked him why the early start and he told me the wall was bombed while still in the process of painting and he needed to restart and pray for a miracle to get it done by one. Meeting up with My Dog Sighs and Snub_23 was a trip and it was cool of them to spare some time for a street art loving kid. As we took a couple of low quality selfies in poor early morning light, he wanted to make sure to extend an invitation to come back and see the finished mural before venturing out to chase more artists.
With the sun periodically showing its face through the clouds ...
I found myself in the Santa Clara School to see if I could get some good shots of last year's murals and hopefully run into some artists putting up new walls. Lo and behold, I ran into the first artist I ever met ... Sonny Sundancer.
It was like a divine intervention; the sun shining bright as I reunited with Sonny couldn't have just been a coincidence ... or was it? Sonny was there putting up a new mural called "Wild Playground", which depicts two tigers clashing into each other. Looking at the tigers, it reminded me of how my brother and I get into a wrestling match every now and then. After catching up with Sonny, we did what we could to capture all the amazing walls at the school.
The next day, we journeyed out to Basel House...
We had no clue the area was closed off to outsiders, but we found ourselves under the good graces of Don Rimx. As he drove his lift into the closed off area, he turned to security and proclaimed "these boys are with me!" ... it felt like I was walking onto the field of the Super Bowl! Next thing you know, we were rubbing elbows with Carlito_Skills, doing a collab with Don Rimx. They were incredibly hospitable and indulged us by exchanging stickers and signing our black book.
The following day, we returned to the Basel House. My brother was surprised by an unexpected treat. His all-time favorite artist, known for his depiction of dissected animals and characters - Nychos. He was working on a pair of seductive sirens and electrifying eels. Meeting him can be compared to if Bobby Boucher met his idol Captain Insano from the movie The Water Boy-starstruck! Watching Nychos paint live was better than front row seats to an Eminem concert. He sprayed each stroke to the rhythm of the heavy metal music blasting in the background, throwing down a can, air drumming, and caught a can thrown back at him without missing a beat.
Still under a state of disbelief, we reluctantly walked away following my dad to the back of a silver gray mini van. It wasn’t just any ole mini van; it was Nychos’ mini van. My dad was feeling EXTRA generous that day... so Christmas came early and we left Basel House decked out from head to toe in Nychos' gear. We were walking billboards for Rabbit Eye Movement.
After Basel House, there was still so much to see, so we wandered over to the Meeting of Styles. There we got to see all the familiar faces we met at our first festival at the Bushwick Collective. Seeing all the familiar faces was like seeing family ... always a great time!
Our friend, Golden305, showed us his studio and quietly pointed out that the 1UP crew was in here. WHAAAT? There was no way we were passing up this opportunity to meet the secretive group. It was one of those wham bam moments where we quickly swapped slaps and got our black book signed, but it was such a cool experience that I would never forget. Again and again, my brother and I felt like the most blessed and the luckiest kids in the world meeting all these culturally diverse and creative people. Our passion for street art is growing exponentially at every passing minute during this trip. Meeting the likes of artists such as Angelonce, Patch Whiskey, Ghostbeard, Art of Bust, and a bunch more at the Meeting of Styles only fueled my desire to up my art skills!
The Lose - Win-Win
It was Saturday night and we were ready to do one final activity before the end of the day (and before my brother has a meltdown), Secret Walls. This was one of the events that I was most excited for when I was finding things to do at Wynwood. We entered Secret Walls and walked around for a bit before a bouncer came over and asked us to leave or else they would be fined if we were found at the party. While we waited, Angelonce came over to us and grabbed as many of the artists that he could find to sign our book! Just as we were leaving, I spotted a very familiar face arriving at the event. I immediately knew that it was Cey Adams. Excitement overcame me as I quickly grabbed my book out of my bag and asked for Mr. Adams’ signature. As we left Secret Walls, my dad turned to my brother and told us, “This better be the first and last time you guys get kicked out of a bar!” With our book a little heavier, we set out for Kai’s art show opening night.
As we walked into the gallery, I was engulfed by all of Kai’s pieces. I am used to seeing Kai’s framed art pieces placed around NYC, tucked into corners here and there, but this was a whole new world of Kai art. The pieces were intriguing with the contradiction of wood embedded into concrete. Nature versus Man-Made. Kai’s two-dimensional characters were transformed into sculptures and brought to life. The sculpture of good versus evil and being torn between them was something I can relate to. Video games or homework? Perhaps not as profound for some, but come on… I AM still a kid! I was finishing up taking my last picture as Kai walked in. Immediately, I ran over to where he was to get a picture. Kai was wearing this insanely awesome helmet that resembled his character “IF” aka Imaginary Friend. He graciously signed our book, left, but returned soon after to give my brother and me some pins and stickers.
Despite meeting all the artists, coordinators, and art fans as individuals coming from all over the world to meet in Miami during this time of year, there is a true sense of community of artists supporting one another. The mural collaboration between Mydogsighs and Snub_23 made me feel that we need to look past any obstacles that may come our way or else we might lose sight of our goals and that sometimes opening our eyes isn’t enough in order to create the world we want to see. We need to do something about it. DonRimX and Carlitos_Skills’ wall showed me that sometimes art can be educational and artists can be great teachers when they represent their heritage and stay true to who they are. Ultimately, art speaks to people. Looking at some of Kai’s work, I learned that everyone has their own “struggles between good and evil” and the only real answer is LOVE.