Since I spotted your sticker a number of months ago, I’ve been wondering about “Quel Beast.” What is the significance of that tag? Audrey Hepburn says it about her date in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. “He’s sweet when he isn’t drunk, but let him start lapping up the vino and, oh golly, quel beast!”
But what does it mean to you? The way she phrases her judgment says a lot about her. Our judgments reveal a lot about us. I used to tag ads with words like quel car or quel price! We make judgments that are often valid, but we have to be conscious of our responsibility to change what we don’t like.
Can you explain further? We have the responsibility to change what we think is wrong. I spent a few years as a member of a group that advocated the radical restructuring of the government. That was like 2004-2005. But there was more talk than action. I found I accomplished less in a group. Now I try to make change with my art.
Have you an example of some change you’d like to see? I would like everyone to reconsider the cultural value of art and its ability to say things that other mediums can’t. When governments go over their budgets, the first things to get cut are art and music.
I’ve also noticed paintings — paste-ups and installations — of women around town signed Quel Beast. These women seem to be in a state of heightened emotions. What’s going on here? It’s not just women. We live in a society where it’s not socially acceptable to express yourself. Apathy and stoicism have been branded as cool. And everyone knows the social etiquette of ignoring people on the subway. I want my work to express everything we keep bottled up, so it’s like a release when people see it. It’s that kind of release for me.
Have you ever been stopped by the police? I got arrested for tagging when I was walking home in Bed-Stuy. I was drunk and careless.
What happened? I spent 24 hours in central booking. It was dehumanizing. There was piss and puke everywhere. There was one toilet and it was broken.
I certainly hope that doesn’t happen again. Have you had any formal art education? I had one semester of art school, but it wasn’t for me.
When did you first begin doing art? I can’t remember any time when I didn’t do art. Making art has always been my means of expression and communication.
Have you any specific “art memory” that stands out? In high school I found this guy’s family photo album online and used the photos as references for paintings. He never knew.
Who are some of your favorite artists? Modigliani. Basquiat, of course. I really like what Cake and Noh J Coley are doing. Neck Face is amazing.
What are your long-term goals? I’m going to keep doing art. I would love for people to appreciate what I am doing. And I want to evolve as an artist. It’s all about evolving.
Note: Quel Beast has been documenting his street art at: http://quelbeast.com/
Interviewed by LoisInWonderland