One of the best things that I love about doing features it that I seem to always discover or possibly re-discover some basic human fundamentals that get lost along the way in this world. That’s the beauty of art right, it is a reflection of not only what is occurring in society but a reflection of who we are as people. The day spent with Matthew Stavro was no different and it really started when I initially called him to set the interview up.
Me: Hey Stavro you want to do an interview for my new art website?
Stavro: Yeah let’s do it outside somewhere.
Me: Totally we can find an outside place to sit and talk.
Stavro: Or we can find a wall I can paint.
Stavro: Can you find a wall or a gate to paint?
Me: Uh… yeah, sure, why not?
Now I didn’t know the first thing about how to find a wall or gate for him to paint on. I mean I’m more of a street art spectator so you won’t catch me painting on walls… yet at least. Luckily I have this thing called common sense and I knew the general approach on how to get this done. After reaching out to some places I thought would be “cool” to have his work displayed I was slightly discouraged because I basically got dial tones. Whatever, chumps missed out! In a hail mary pass a couple days before our scheduled shoot the mechanics on my block came through.
Tony, an old school type of guy, who owns the shop was a bit hesitant because, well he just thought it would just tagged over after Stavro was done. After I showed him IG pictures of Stavro’s work he was definitely into it and gave us the go ahead, with a fair warning that it would be tagged. Now for those of you who don’t follow street art here is the difference between a street art piece and a fuck boy tag.
It is also well known knowledge within the street art community that if an artist's does a mural or a dope ass piece keep your tags to yourself and show some respect. Over time, many business owners have opted to commission street artists to do murals on their outside premises to avoid the ugliness and cost associated with random tags. This drives up business and increases the value of the community. Ha, bet you didn’t think street art was a community service. Since this was a concern of Tony’s I asked Stavro what he would do if someone tagged over his piece he did today and he said that he would come back to fix it as many times as it took until they got the point. Gangster AF!
We were up at the crack of dawn preparing the gate to have the mural painting, and I gotta say I never knew how much manual labor there was involved with this ish. Scraping, sweeping, laying down a base coat, damn! Because we knew we were going to be kicking it outside we had sent out a blast letting people know and two friends had come by early to chill and watch the mural get done from the beginning and immediately started helping. Shout out to Natalia Cardona and CMB photographer Kareem Montes for saving my lazy ass.
As the paint dried, Stavro showed us an initial sketch of what he was conceptualizing for the gate. He asked me if I knew what it said, of course I do! Truth be told, I cheated because I flipped the sheet over :) Stavro’s style would be considered by some to be abstract graffiti because of the non-obvious writing that he uses. It is a unique approach to graffiti that marries both street art and graffiti lettering. Abstract graffiti is like asking who put peanut butter in my chocolate. YUMMY! It is thought provoking and interesting to look at it.
Stavro has a formal background in art and can drop some knowledge on you folks for sure. He started experimenting with his style of street art in about 2007 and really hit it hard core in about 2009, even though I have a feeling he was bombing places way before that under the cloak of night. Although, he is probably passionate about all art in general, I think his face lights up most when he speaks about street art and what it means to him.
Stavro is a Welling Court artist and coordinator, with an amazing grasp on what art can bring to the community, and over the day I truly got to experience that, making me eternally grateful. If you are like most New Yorkers, well most people who live in an urban environment, you are not typically just chilling outside your home all day. In fact, I bet dollars to donuts that you don’t even know the majority of your neighbors in your building or immediate neighborhood. This is something you really can’t escape as a dope ass artists is throwing down.
As the day progressed people were stopping by that we knew, and even more importantly people in the community that we didn’t know. I was moved by the fact that I have passed these people on a daily and never once bothered to say hello and now we were bonding. Seriously, there are some incredible people that live around me! It was so refreshing to not feel alone in my own hood. The only thing I could think of is to go and get beer and pizza so we can really kick it with everyone. Through Stavro’s art we turned a relatively quiet street into a small block party.
The vibrant colors he works with attracted people walking by and even cars on the street. At certain points there were traffic jams on my quiet street because everyone kept stopping to take pictures and selfies. A guy pulled over to get Stavro’s information because he wanted to see if he could hire him to paint his community center in the area! (I didn’t even know there was one that close to me) A massive moving truck yelled to ask if he would paint on the side of it and held up a line of cars to get Stavro’s contact.
It was incredible to see people gathering in appreciation of Stavro’s heartfelt work. Throughout the day, as the mural progressed, you could see the intuitive nature in which he paints. He started with a foundation sketch but let the vibes of the community fuel the rest of the mural. Stavro enjoys using bright colors in the majority of the work for the simple fact that he knows it makes people smile. As he’s painting you can see that he wants it to affect people in this community in the most positive way possible. Putting it all out there for people who he doesn’t know, and may never see again, all because he knows that sometimes in life we need to fucking smile.
Like many street artists, Stavro does show in galleries, in fact, I met him at Fat Free Art where he was showing a couple of his pieces. Stavro also embraces the true essence of street art and says that there is nothing like painting outside, making art for everyone. I mean, picture it, walking home when you had a shitty day and being able to see a piece of street art that turns that frown upside down homie. At the end of the day when it was all down Stavro left art that will affect the members of the community longer than the day that it took him to create it. Not only do we all get an opportunity to enjoy his art but are now connected as a community through his work. I no longer live next to the Chinese restaurant, I live next to the Stavro mural.
I encourage everyone to take a walk in your community, or the streets in general, and see the art that is created, meant to connect us in a digital age where we mostly experience life as a third party. We are not a third parties in our world we are directly involved with the people around us whether we want to admit it or not. Without the community support around me, Stavro would not have had a gate to paint on, I wouldn’t have got the super in my building to know my face so he would fix something, or have something to write for all of you!
As you are walking around in the New York streets keep your eyes open for Stavro’s art. It is work that will make you stop in your tracks to figure out what his lettering is saying, make you smile because of the vibrant energy of his color palette, and down right groovy AF! If you want to know where to check out his work on the streets or how you can get a piece to put in your home so you can smile everyday, hit him up on social media ASAP @_Stavro_ You can also keep posted to the CMB thread because we will be doing another mural with Stavro the first chance we get. Straight up LIC take over muthfuckas!!!