By Sarah Milks
Photography by Andy Rolfes
Collect Respect is an exhibit featuring Dallas-based, as well as Los Angeles-based, street artists. All of the artists came together to showcase their own personal style, as well as share some of Dallas’ history by using local signage as their canvases. A theme that was found throughout the exhibit was the history of the gallery itself expressed through hand drawings or mixed media done on physical checks and bonds that were written out to the Blue Diamond Company in 1943. The checks and bonds told their own non-verbal narrative about the history of the gallery and the viewers learned that there is a really neat story behind the beloved WAAS Gallery.
For those who were not able to make it to Collect Respect’s opening night, The Blue Diamond Company is now Adams Supply of Dallas and Brandy’s father is the owner. In 2011, Brandy Michele Adams founded WAAS Gallery and her and her father now share the same office building.
Collect Respect represents is much more than just “art.” This show marks an important shift in the graffiti scene and we hope that this will only spark even more street culture being created and shared in both Dallas and in Los Angeles. Both of these cities have their own vibe and characteristics, but we hope that more events will take place where artists from different cities will link up and work together to make something beautiful, sharing their different gifts and styles with one another. In doing so, we will be taking steps towards building bridges, a stronger voice, and a likelihood of a greater acceptance of street style amongst the masses.
Some of these amazing artists were able to be there for the night of the opening and I was able to do interviews with four of them. It was really neat to not only learn their processes as artists, but to learn about who they are as people. Art is much more than style. It is a combination of a life experiences, culture, style of learning, emotion, and personal expression.
Jim Evans, a Los Angeles gem, created a beautifully complex pigment print called “Iron Steer,” inspired by the first rail station in Dallas. Jim started to consider himself an artist in 1968 when he was 17 years old, but had always been drawing in school. He grew up in Southern California and the surfer, rock and roll lifestyle shaped everything that he created. Surfing for Jim wasn’t just a touristy experience; it was an everyday reality, growing up near the beach in Southern California. He played in a rock band growing up and wanted to be a rock star, but ended up being an artist instead. It is always interesting to see how the desires of our hearts end up playing a significant role in our lives.
Rock and Roll may not have been his profession, but Mr. Evans started illustrating for major pop artists and adopted California Pop Culture into his artistic style. Jim’s portfolio is extensive and to say that it is impressive would be an understatement. He designed album covers for the Beastie Boys, the Beach Boys, and Neil Young to name a few, and designed posters for Green Day, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, U2 and Jane’s Addiction. Jim’s style is impeccable and it is no wonder why he has been presented with such amazing opportunities.
The piece that Jim made for Collect Respect is of a train and he wanted to get in the Texas state of mind so he used photographs of a steel train and a longhorn that he took four months ago while in Dallas to represent Texas well. It serves Texas well, all right! It was one of the most-loved pieces of the night.
Joe Skilz, a Dallas-based artist, was extremely creative when deciding the material he wanted to use for this show and he did two pieces made out of Dallas bricks. He started doing art when he was young and in 1996, he taught himself how to do graffiti. He is a character artist and mixes comic book or animation inspiration with graffiti. He came across historic bricks when a friend who lives in a house that was once an air force base during WWII found them underground and he thought that there would be no better material to use for the Collect Respect exhibit. One of his pieces, “Burnin’”, represents a salute to all graffiti writers and crews. The other piece depicts a graffiti chick painting in gold and she is handing it over saying, “Your turn,” which is why he decided to name it just that. This theme that Joe is creating through his work is the very thing that we are encouraging through Collect Respect and we hope to see more events taking place in the future where artists are passing the torch, getting to know other artists on both a personal and creative level, and creating deeper-rooted community.
Another Los Angeles-based artist, Sebastien Walker, has a very distinctive style and watching him draw characters so quickly and with little to no flaws is amazing. He said that his style is somewhat of a “cartoony mess” and he does experimentations with new styles occasionally to keep things interesting. He doesn’t necessarily have a certain niche, but he loves cartoons and line work. Sebastien is in a pretty sweet spot because currently, he is not internationally known and this allows him the freedom to try out new things and his artwork is not expected to have a certain “look.”
Sebastien grew up in a musically gifted household- his dad is an opera signer. Therefore, instrumental music was something that he enjoyed and currently still does. His first concert ever was when he went to see Whitney Houston, right after the Bodyguard came out. He was always drawing as a kid and he started doing graffiti full-time as a teenager. Between the ages of 15 and 23, he was doing graffiti illegally, but now he does it seriously. Graffiti brought him back to drawing and he went to school to get his Bachelors degree in France and his Masters degree in Graphic Design in Los Angeles. He is extremely talented and his artwork is sophisticated, yet playful.
His heart for character drawings mixed with his expertise in graphic design sets him up to be a highly successful freelance artist and his work is loved by many. Not only is he an accomplished artist, but also he is a fun person to be around. He is one of the few individuals that within two days of meeting can have meaningful conversation about topics that matter. That is one of many qualities that set him apart in character.
The last interview of the night was with Kate Firth, a Dallas-based steel sculptor. She started sculpting at 18, but was making longboards and skateboards at 14. Something that sets Kate apart as an artist is the actual medium that she chooses to use in her pieces. Not many sculptors use steel anymore, but Kate loves interacting with and touching each piece that she works on. She doesn’t want to be just an “idea gal,” but wants to work with her hands because she believes that “the more you touch something or engage an object, the more it comes to life”.
The piece that Kate entered in to Collect Respect, “Payback,” was a huge hit. If there was an award for “Most Photographed Piece of the Night” it would probably be this one. It is a bold, red, modern sculpture that has a childlike feel to it, but the story that it is conveying is one that most adults can relate to. She had to go on a little treasure hunt to get her hands on these meters, but it was well worth it and I’m sure the city of Dallas will be glad that she did! First she spoke with the Director of the Dallas Art District and they sent her to the Office of Cultural Affairs. They then directed her to speak with the Dallas Police Department where a few specific people within the department helped her locate the meters and even delivered them to her doorstep! The deal that was made was that after Collect Respect ended, her sculpture would be installed in Dallas as a public art sculpture. This is a big deal because this will be the second public piece that she will have installed in Dallas in 2014—what an accomplishment!
Collect Respect’s opening show marked a turning point in the way Dallas and Los Angeles-based artists will work together in the future. Relationships were made, some were further deepened, and a more of the public was exposed to the beautiful, well-composed, mess that is street art.