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  • Words by Kalin Hart

Street Art in the Shop: Valentine's Day at Bloomingdale's

Featuring local artists Justin Winslow, Con$umer, Marco Santini and Rebecca Gruen, Bloomingdale’s Soho is incorporating one-of-a-kind artwork into the downtown retail sphere. The Soho location is unlike any other Bloomingdale’s store in that it is much more experimental in terms of display and fashion styling. With the internet taking over all too quickly, giving the customer a unique experience they can’t find anywhere else is imperative to continuing the brick and mortar tradition.

Artwork by Justin Winslow, Photo by John Dominé
Artwork by Con$umer, Photo by John Dominé

Out of all 38 locations, Soho is one of 4 that features The Carousel, a permanent rotating pop-up shop with a new concept every two months curated by a different designer or influencer. The current shop Love Is was curated by Darcy Miller, offering all things love from dainty Parisian lingerie to funky Jonathan Adler decor. Led by Bloomingdale’s visual veteran Edie Smyth, the Visual Display team at Soho recently completed a love inspired installation that laces throughout the store with a multitude of visual display moments from hanging sculptures made from thousands of red envelopes to black bird skeletons delicately holding tiny love letters in their beaks. The team was thrilled to bring in 3 local artists, Justin Winslow, Con$umer and Rebecca Gruen to hand paint murals and hang stenciled canvases. Two custom painting events were also held featuring multidisciplinary artist Marco Santini at both the Soho and uptown location. To culminate the Love Is Carousel, Santini will complete a one love window mural at 59th St on Valentine's Day from 1-6pm.

Artwork by Marco Santini, Photo by Dael Mundy

Justin Winslow graced us with his darling hand painted illustrations of his charming pet kitty Gus, thoughtfully placed throughout the second floor just past women’s shoes in Soho. Inspired by his beloved feline, these sweet vignettes welcome the viewer into a bubbly land of whimsy free of any cares in the world. His clever little phrases accompanying his imagery add a warm sophistication to the work, reminding us never to take ourselves too seriously. The inclusive nature of his subject makes the work even more endearing- Gus is intentionally painted to not represent one specific sex, race or age.

Stemming from the world of street art, Con$umerart brings a more graphic style to the walls of Bloomingdale’s. Utilizing spray paint and stencils, his iconic Love Spray design is featured on a number of canvases collaged on the Women’s 4th floor. He even snuck an original Love Spray can into a mannequin’s purse on display- as we know in the art world, it’s all in the details. This signature image is only one of many that he creates- his renditions of Kate Moss and Biggie Smalls are just as fabulous.

Rebecca Gruen has been drawing since she thought crayons tasted good. With a BFA in Illustration and countless years of experience under her belt, Gruen stays true to classic mediums and her love of the brush shows in her moody bird skeleton she painted at Bloomingdale’s. A more interpretative version of the classic Valentine’s Day love bird, her stylized skeleton tucks in perfectly on the Men’s floor complete with a neon red heart.

Artwork by Rebecca Gruen

Bloomingdales hosted two live painting events with NYC based multidisciplinary artist Marco Santini, one uptown at the 59th street location and one downtown in Soho. Santini hand painted purchased items as well as the iconic Bloomingdale’s brown shopping bags. These interactive experiences are exactly what the retailer is striving to create- building relationships, blending the disciplines of art and fashion and making this world a bit more beautiful, one brush stroke at a time. (Photos provided by Dael Mundy.)

I was able to catch up with Justin Winslow to learn a bit more about his artistic process and what grinds his gears artistically..

1. Do you see the worlds of art and fashion blending more in the future with the progression of social media?

Definitely. Instagram is an especially strong visual-sharing app. IG lets artists of all kinds work remotely and get feedback immediately on their work. Nowadays, an artist or designer can build a HUGE support network and following using social media.

2. The whimsical nature of your work is unlike any I’ve seen here in the New York art scene. What influences have helped you develop your style into what it is today?

I come from more of an illustration/animation background, so I love creating simple graphic characters I can recreate easily to tell a story. My cat has become my muse. He appears in almost all my work and is usually the hero. I draw from the styles of children books, pop culture, and NYC fabulousness. I like work that is fun and accessible but still has subtle little statements. I believe you should take whatever you love and mix it in a blender when creating your style.

3. You have a wonderful balance of playfulness and sarcasm in your work- never too sweet, never too sassy. Utilizing text within fine art can be tricky- how have you mastered this delicate skill?

THANK YOU for saying that! I hate overly-cute saccharine things, so I tend to have cute characters acting sassy or naughty. I'm so flattered you think I've hit a good balance!

4. Your darling kitty, Gus. Tell us a bit about how he became your shining model muse.

I've never owned a cat before but I've fallen in love. I guess I'm a crazy cat person now. Gus is the best cat and he actually poses for me!

5. As a graphic designer by trade, you have a beautiful balance of capturing the underlying fundamentals of design and composition while still remaining true to your free spirited less structured style. How does your graphic background influence your vision?

It definitely inspires my use of hand-drawn typography. I love calligraphy and "fancy" writing styles. I think understanding design makes an artist better. Color, composition, and balance is equally important in both art and design.

6. You have some killer murals out in Brooklyn at PS9 and Underhill Walls curated by Jeff Beler. How has this transition been from paper to outdoor walls? Do you wish to continue exploring big scale or do you prefer to stay smaller?

I LOVE working BIG! Not only that, working BIG gets you much more attention than working small. I hope to do more large scale work.

7. You are an absolute pleasure to work with. What artist or brand would be your dream collaboration? Any tips for budding artists out there to keep in mind when collaborating with fellow creatives or brands?

THANK YOU!! I would die to work with Bloomie's again or any big brand, especially a fashion brand, toy brand, or cat food brand, haha!

8. What’s next for Winslow World?

I hope much more cats, paint, and BIG pieces!

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