- Words by Erica Stella, Photos by Erica Stella
Amazon Awareness: Tito Ferrara
Tito Ferrara 1st painted the NYC streets in 2018, he obtained 2 walls with help from East Village Walls and neither lasted long before being tagged and bombed over. For his sophomore mark on NYC, he came much more prepared and with a purpose close to his heart. The Amazon is burning, and it is crucial to the stability of global climate. There are over 400 different indigenous groups that call the Amazon home, and one in particular opened their arms to Tito, and he is committed to helping tell their story.
Erica Stella: If I were to describe your portraits, you are painting the beauty of the Amazon. Am I close?
Tito Ferrara: Actually my work is based on storytelling through portraits. In January 2019, I immersed myself in an indigenous Kaiapó village (the Mebêngôkre), in the middle of the Amazon rainforest. And I'm trying to tell the story of all that I experienced.
ES: Hailing from Brazil, why was it important for you to paint these portraits in New York City?
TF: For two main reasons. One is that the chieftain of the village asked me to share their story and the forest to as many people as possible. The second is an artful response to things spoken by Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro at the UN earlier this year. NYC is a great showcase for both of these goals, it is the world's stage.
ES: Is the Amazon rain forest beyond recovery now? Is there a way to reverse the damage?
TF: I am not a scientist. But for all I read and live, we are very close to a moment of no return. And it is scientifically proven that the indigenous way of life is the closest way to a balance with nature. And indigenous reserves are both ways of preserving their original culture and living forest. This is why delivering this message is so important now.
ES: What graffiti artists inspired you as a youth?
TF: If it's just one name, my main graffiti influence at the beginning was Hamilton Yokota AKA Titi Freak, who inspires me to this day. I even have a tattoo of his own on my arm. Nowadays, I look for art references that go beyond graffiti. I really believe in researching and studying different mediums make for an interesting result.
ES: When I met you at The Bushwick Collective, you were blasting Ray Charles' rendition of 'America The Beautiful' for all to hear, it was beautiful. What's usually in your headphones while you paint?
TF: The music greatly influences the mood. So on my trip to NYC this time, I'm mostly listening to Brazilian music. Precisely what I need to bring the essence of the message to my work.
ES: You painted a jaguar head in Chinatown, and are giving us a full body of spots in Bushwick! Why is the South American jaguar important to the Amazon?
TF: Jaguars impact ecosystems through their diet. They are the top-predators, of course! Jaguars are considered ‘umbrella species’ because by protecting broad swaths of habitat required for their survival, a number of other sensitive species are also protected.
ES: This is the 2nd time you painted in NYC. What was different this time around?
TF: This time I came with a better structure in mind. With projects and panels already planned. But even with all that, a lot changed when I actually arrived. You have to know how to improvise.
ES: How does New York City inspire you?
TF: Undoubtedly is the broadening of horizons. NCY's cultural life is the most unique in the world. In such a geographically small area that generates so much culture. Every time I come, I leave with a fresh take on the power of art.
Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions, and the gifts left this time around in NYC - we hope the impact is felt worldwide!
This piece is located at 3215 36 Avenue & 33rd St, Astoria, NYC (photos by @catscoffeecreativity )
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