- Words and Photos by The Echo Parker
Walk and Talk with Diva Dog LA
7575 Melrose Blvd - Melrose Art Wall
It was such a treat for me to spend time with DivaDogLA recently. I just wanted to wear their sunglasses, and go for a walk with them. Their energy makes me happy and I LOVE their style and clever use of glitter. It is always a delight to see that pup peeking through a fence or sitting on a street light post around street art walls like 7575 Melrose Wall, and other LA staples.
Hi Sold Magazine, I'm ready for my close up! I mean, not that close... I just rolled out of bed! (puts on sunglasses) ...
join me today as we learn more about the diva behind the dog!
7575 Melrose Blvd, Los Angeles - 7575 Melrose Street Art Wall
The Echo Parker: Tell me how Diva Dog evolved into such a spunky beloved character?
My name is Diva Dog! And I'm a queer street artist spreading rainbows and glitter all over the streets of LA! The whole idea & world of Diva Dog is 100% inspired by my childhood dog, a little boy beagle named Baron. And growing up, he was my loyal friend, fiercest protector and loving brother. And, as I got older, I always wanted to do something to honor him. One day, about 2 years ago, I started to outline my favorite pic of him and, literally within minutes, I saw the whole Diva design & look...all I needed to do was add glitter! Even the Diva name came to me instantly! Something clever, catchy and queer. And, in that moment, I became Diva Dog!
Melrose Blvd, Los Angeles
TEP: A diva is a celebrated personality with a strong and sometimes unreasonable attitude. While you are a diva in many ways, I also see you as charming and fun spirited always making people feel good about themselves. Tell me about your personality, your use of glitter, and your spunky persona.
DD: Initially, I thought I would be this colorful and sassy queer dog that would say witty and sometimes horrible things on the streets of LA...you know, be a DIVA! But, as I began to work on my look, I focused completely on the more positive & confident messages...(or sometimes cute, silly ones). Something to make people smile when they saw me on the street. And, over the past few years, my main DIVA look has occasionally been refreshed because...why not! Originally I sported the standard rainbow colors to symbolize Gay Pride. And then, one day, I looked in the mirror and thought...I need a touch up! So I went in to visit my magical doctor and came out rocking the inclusive Philly Pride Flag (with the black & brown colors) which I loved! After a few months, I knew I needed a little more work done...so I went back under the knife to elevate my look with the Trans Pride Flag! And I know I'll keep getting a little nip and tuck here and there because I am a DIVA after all...(i.e: I'm a Virgo!) And currently I'm on this obsessive & endless quest to add more glitter, more sparkle and more shine! (Although glitter spray paint is my sworn enemy at the moment!)
TEP: Being seen on the streets, your work is recognized and photographed often. How do you feel your street art is perceived especially when someone comments on Instagram about you?
DD: One of the things that I love about my street art is some people see this bright, upbeat beagle. And other people see the colorful queer dog that I am. (Sometimes I just scream out that last part with a "I'm Gay/"I'm Queer"). I remember, early on, someone found my Diva Dog sticker in the Phoenix airport and took and pic and posted that they were happy to find me with the hashtag "#ifyouknowyouknow" because they spotted the pride colors in my design. That really meant a lot to me. I like the idea of being a small representation of the queer community on the streets.
Downtown Los Angeles Arts District
TEP: I was there when you made it to the coveted 2nd story spot at the famous 7575 Melrose Wall with Little Ricky and Dusty Rebel. What was it like being interviewed by photographer & filmmaker Daniel Albanese AKA Dusty Rebel for his Queer Street Art documentary?
DD: Meeting Dusty for his upcoming documentary was so much fun! One day when he was filming Little Ricky on Melrose, I stopped by and, eventually, wound up on top of a massive scaffold, putting up a DIVA collage which I would have never imagined happening! Also, during my interview with Dusty was the first time I talked at length about what my dog meant & why he was so important to me. When I say my dog was fiercely protective, he was! He would growl & snap at anyone to protect me. And, growing up as queer teen who didn't always fit in, having his love & protection meant the world to me. And, even now, it's something that inspires me to create and put work on the street...to put that energy out into the world.
7575 Melrose Blvd, Los Angeles - 7575 Melrose Wall
"One of the things I love about Diva Dog's work is that (they've) transformed (their) childhood dog into a colorful queer character that passes on joy and a sense of protection to strangers on the street. There's something magical about leaving a little mascot imbibed with that energy in public spaces. Diva Dog not only gives visibility to queer people, but in some ways leaves a protective talisman throughout the streets of the world."
7575 Melrose Blvd, Los Angeles - 7575 Melrose Wall
TEP: Your presence, depending where you are, feels like you are connecting with some in a very special way. It’s almost like the you are protecting or being protective of those that may be struggling with being queer.
DD: There's one "I'm Gay!" sticker that's currently on the window of Angel City Brewery in DTLA...and it's the first spot I ever put up an "I'm Gay!" sticker two years ago...and it's behind some grating so it looks like it's behind bars and trapped in a way...and I sometimes try to find little spaces to put those stickers to symbolize a little bit of that struggle. And connect with the feeling of not always be accepted. Like I'll put them in a hard to find spot or a dark corner...so it's almost like a whisper...or a scream in the dark...
Diva is out here protecting the streets in the same way my dog protected me growing up...almost like a guard dog.
Angel City Brewery Downtown Los Angeles Arts District
TEP: Your style varies a little from Los Angeles to New York. What are your inspirations?
DD: As far as my design...I wanted my original Diva design to be simple chunky lines all connected - almost like a stencil. Or a logo...like Paul Frank's Julius the Monkey - I've always loved that design and thought that could be my dog! Additionally, my square side profile dog with the outlined "DIVA" in the lower corner was inspired by the Art Deco style because I wanted create a portrait of my dog that was regal and stately...because that honestly was my beagle. Another one of my Diva Dog designs was inspired by Saul Bass' movie posters from the 1950's (like Vertigo or Anatomy of a Murder).
I love the angular style of his work. Also for my DIVA subway sign, although I was born in the Bronx & we moved away when I was young, I eventually went to college in the Bronx. And I would take the "D" train from Fordham Rd to West 4th street as often as I could to escape to the village...So I always wanted to design something using that orange & white subway line symbol because, for me, the "D" train represented freedom and adventure...and side note: I LOVE New York!
TEP: Keith Harring was a huge inspiration for you. What impact did his work have on your art?
DD: When I was originally working on the design, I wanted my dog to be a little hat tip to Keith Haring's dog. Keith's definitely an inspiration for all of his work and for all the queerness in his work. When I was in Italy 4 years ago, I was searching for some pizza in Pisa and I happened upon Keith's final public work - Tuttomondo. And it blew me away - absolutely awe-inspiring. A huge side of a building filled some of his most famous characters/designs - his radiant child, his dancing dog, his mother and child. Just incredible!
The thing that always struck me about Keith's work was that it was bright and bold but also blatantly queer. Sometimes sacred and sometimes profane...which I think a lot of artists explore...especially if you have a strong religious upbringing (Irish Catholic!)...so sometimes I'll have a piece that is specifically queer or bold - "I (Instagram) Like Dick"...Or "GAY AF" or "I'm Queer!"...and I'll put them in a certain spot that connects to a queer idea that makes me smile...like, one day, there was a section of sidewalk near Hollywood Blvd that was being worked on and was all boarded over...and I saw this big sign that said: "Open Hole" and I couldn't resist - I had to paste a rainbow colored "GAY AF" next to it. And when Homo Riot curated his recent Queer Street Art show, I had to make a huge "I'm Queer!" Diva Head...because, sometimes, I'm not subtle. That show was amazing, btw, and it was great to meet so many other queer street artists from all over the country. So, circling back to Keith, I appreciate whenever he's acknowledged as a queer street artist...and not just praised for his long lasting influence on the art form. Also I can't wait to see his newly restored "Crack Is Wack" mural that next time I'm back in the city.
"I love the work that Diva Dog LA does and I love the origin story of Diva Dog. Diva Dog's work is immediate and raw. It’s not trying to be anything else on the street. Diva Dog is prolific and serious about the work and I respect that. Diva Dog did a six foot Diva Dog for The Streets Are Queer show. It capped one of the main walls. Diva Dog's work was a focal point of the show. And I believe most queer people can relate to the loneliness and isolation that accompanies discovering your own “otherness”. Having a friend you can share thoughts and fears with and who loves you unconditionally through that self discovery is a blessing. And sometimes that friend is a dog. And on top of that Diva Dog is a sweetheart."
TEP: What are your design goals and can you give us an insight to the sleeping pose?
DD: I have one design that's based on my sleeping dog. And I try to find unique spots to put them up so that maybe bring some comfort to anyone on the street. But I guess my goal in doing the street art is mainly to make people smile! Or maybe to have the gay/queer kid passing by stop and see a small piece of themselves...out here on these mean streets.
TEP: There is a fun spirit and confidence you have as Diva Dog. Is there a difference between your daily life and your persona?
DD: The difference in my everyday life and my life as Diva is a certain confidence. And it's directly connected to who I am as a queer creative person. And it's art! And it's expression! And it's freedom! Which is why I love being this Diva!
7575 Melrose Bl - Melrose Art Wall
There's this incredible joy that I have coming back and seeing that one of my dogs is still up...sometimes I'll even give them a little pat on the head...and, for a split second, it feels like my little beagle is still around. And that makes me smile...
TEP: Thank you Diva Dog for making me and the SoldMagNY family happy.
DD: Wow! Thank you for spending time with me! I truly appreciate it! Sending love and hugs from LA to everyone in NYC and beyond.