I seem to see your little guy everywhere I go. He’s become part of New York City’s landscape. Who is he? He’s just a goofy little face that people like. He doesn’t mean anything. I invented him about five years ago as a profile image, because I didn’t want to reveal my identity on MySpace and other social networking sites. Since then, I suppose, he’s become me. He’s constantly evolving. And when I’m feeling down, he cheers me up.
When did you first start hitting the streets? I was thrown out of high school for refusing to say the “Pledge of Allegiance.” The war in Iraq had just started. I entertained myself by creating fanzines, interviewing band members, putting up stickers and spray painting on the streets. I was a skate punk. There weren’t many kids like me on Long Island.
Had you any role models at the time? There was JA, for sure — the founder of the crew XTC and a true king of NYC graffiti. He was everywhere. There was also Ghost, the late Sane Smith, Saint and Duel.
That was back in the late 80’s, early 90’s. How have you evolved since then? Back then, I was just into tagging. I didn’t pay attention to style. Eventually I developed a hand style and then I began painting. The first serious painting I ever did was of a friend who had just died of an overdose. He was about my age and my roommate at the time. Painting helped me deal with his death, and it gave my art a new direction. I began to think of myself as an artist – not as a vandal.
But you continued on the streets? Definitely, but with paste-ups and stickers as my new tools.
Have you ever had beef with other street artists? Occasionally, but we usually work things out. There’s an unwritten code on the streets: You don’t go over someone’s work unless it’s already buffed. Then it’s fair game.
What about the cops? Have you had any run-ins with them? I’ve done a lot of running from them. But, yeah, I was busted in ’93 and charged with vandalism. I had to do five days of community service. I remember running errands for guys working in offices down in City Hall. In 2008, some dudes started blogging about me and brought me to the attention of the authorities. I ended up with nine summonses and $3,000 in legal fees. My case was dismissed. And then just last week, as I was leaving an art show in the East Village with canvases in my hand, two cops drove up, handcuffed me and took me to the 9th precinct.
What was that all about? The police allegedly saw me putting up two stickers. They never read me my rights. One told me that I was “no different than a drug pusher, just pushing art instead of drugs,” and that I’d end up getting raped in jail. I ended up spending 27 hours behind bars in the Tombs.
What was that like? Well, I was either yelled at or ignored — with a bunch of other so-called criminals. Like the guy who fell asleep on the subway and was taking up two seats at 2am in the morning. Or the kid who was caught tagging with white-out. And there was someone who’d jumped a NYC subway turnstile. Lots of “quality of life” crimes. I’d say about 80% of those locked up with me were there because of minor marijuana offenses. But now I have to go back to court at the end of May.
Good luck with that! What do you see yourself doing within the next few years? I have a Bachelors in Media Communications from Queens College. I want to go back to school and get a Masters degree in Fine Arts. Eventually I’d like to teach. Kids love me. And, of course, I want to grow as an artist.
What kinds of reactions have you gotten from others to your character? Tourists, especially, love him! They’re always photographing him. I get lots of fan mail. Recently I got a letter from a group of high school girls from Chelsea telling me how much they love KRSNA. “We count how many times we see him each day,” they wrote. “We call him Freddy.”
Interviewed by LoisInWonderland