I had a chance to ask Jeremy Novy a few questions about his well known koi and his up coming History of Queer Street Art Show, here’s what he had to say:
Maggie Pike: Tell me a little about your background as an artist, how long have you been working with stencils? How did you get started? What draws you to working in public space?
Jeremy Novy: I’ve been doing stencils for about 12 years now. I first saw a lecture at my art school about MASSmoca and this exhibit about Interventional Street Art. I had wanted my graffiti to have a larger message that everyone could see and understand and not just the other graffiti writers. So I started working on stencils and have taken it on full time. It’s a lot harder to convey a message in just a graffiti name.
The first artworks of yours that I saw were the stencil portrait of Raya Light and other Drag Queens, can you tell me more about those? Are they all portraits of friends or were they originally commissioned for a specific show?
I lived in Divine’s old house in the Castro over a summer and I made a Divine stencils. I then started seeing drag queen as a very easily recognized queer image and pretty radical in the sense of a man wearing a dress isn’t what you think about when graffiti comes to mind. I then was asked to do an installation at the Supper club on 3rd and Harrison. So I wanted to do a small series of life size drag queens and other queer imagery as some kind of queer revolution later to be placed on the streets.
I pulled this quote from your facebook page: “Stencils are mainly images of pop culture. I do images of my sub pop culture, which is Queer. In the world of street art being Queer isn’t accepted easily. It is ruled by a group of misogynistic, homophobic, heterosexual, males.” Can you elaborate on your use of sub pop cultural imagery?
I guess I don’t mean sub pop culture as much as I mean none main stream. We live in a heterosexual world outside of San Francisco. I’m queer and my pop culture is queer which could be called a sub culture to a heterosexual culture.
It seems like San Francisco has really embraced your Koi Fish stencils, I’ve seen them all over the city. What’s the story behind those? Why do you think they have become so popular?
I spent 3 months in china studying ancient and contemporary art. I also have a large birth mark on my forehead. These two things lead to the image of the koi fish as possibly a symbol of me. Then when I moved to San Francisco I realized they are the colors of the Giants. I think they have became so popular because one there on the sidewalk. It’s technically no one’s personal property and belongs to the city. But the fact that they seem to have little to no direct statement behind them but a beautiful image to look at is what I feel has made them as popular as they are today. They have been able to cross boundaries unlike so many other things in the world. In San Francisco they have been able to reach the young, the old, the rich, the poor, the educated and the uneducated. You could find yourself sitting at a bus stop with someone of a different race, age, gender, and social class and yet be able to have a conversation about the koi fish as the likely hood of the other person seeing them is pretty high. Advertisement company’s wish their images could do that.
What is next for you as an artist? I know you’re working on a History of Queer Street Art show, can you tell me more about that? Any other projects?
Yeah I’m curating a show this June in San Francisco at SOMArts called “A History of Queer Street Art” You can find 24 street artist from around the world on facebook. I feel it’s about time we deal with the bullshit between graffiti artist and homosexuality.
If you’re in San Francisco this weekend, definitely check out Jeremy’s group show at SOMArts. He’s gathered a lot of great artist’s from around the world including Wall Kandi, Adrian + Shane, Space Invader, Encore, Paul Le Chein, Daryl Vocats, Gaystencil, OpusGay, Aluminum Shoe, Jilly Ballistic, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Faile, Keith Haring, ACT UP, Oscar, PartyBoy, Shepard Fairy, PRVTDNCR and Bodega Vendetta, Homo Riot, Eddie Colla, Hugh Leeman, Queer Nation, Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence,Pixelstud, Gay Shame, Blanche & Rico, Jeremy Novy, Akimbo, New Punk Bobby.