Jun 30, 2010 ellen leahy Uncategorized
BORN TO SPRAY:
In 1998 the Post Standard’s Dick Case wrote a lengthy poetic account of urban artist, Monty Esposito’s struggle.
Twelve years later, not much has changed.
Esposito makes his living as a tattoo artist at 315 Tattoo on Wolf Street (between Stella’s and Badda Bing). But his first passion is as a muralist. He can paint and draw in most any style, using most materials. But his medium of choice is spray paint. He likes the vibrance, the consistency, the flash.
He works with a crew of like-minded painters, Brandon Lazore and Sean Sherlock. Their work was once scattered throughout the city of Syracuse, until it was washed away by city officials, misunderstanding its intent.
“We’re out here trying to beautify Syracuse one wall at a time,” Esposito said.
The three might be considered graffiti artists except, “We choose not to vandalize people’s property,” Lazore said, “Our goal is to get murals that run for years, not to keep getting painted over.”
“It doesn’t make any sense, because we are working for them and often doing their jobs,” Esposito said. “We don’t paint naked ladies, or pornography, or social issues or political statements.”
The artist’s projects involve finding buildings that have been tagged by gangs, ask the building owner for permission to paint it over. The process entertains the neighborhood’s residents. In addition, these artists use their own time and materials. And, consider that under each mural is a fresh coat of paint.
Their public artwork was never disturbed, tagged or disrespected by residents — only city hall.
“Somebody in city hall would paint over (our work) thinking they were doing something good,” Esposito said.
Also in this venture, the artists intentionally didn’t do cutting edge work; they painted PG often using comic book characters at the core, so as to not intentionally stir up controversy.
Missing Super heroes
Esposito’s crew (including SU student Oliver Fox) created the former Superman and Spiderman murals on the North and South sides of Mose’s Market on South Avenue that the City Eagle reported were missing in its April 29 edition (read it online at cnylink.com/news/view_news.php?news_id=1272477398&sr=1).
The owner of Mose’s Market said he was directed by the city to paint over the murals at an out of pocket cost of $1,500. Any small business owner can relate to “the ouch factor” in this unscheduled expense compounded by the recession. But more than dollars, the disappearance of the murals has meant a loss for the neighborhood.
Esposito said, former city official Dennis Brogan said the murals were gang related.
“That’s very disrespectful, a very harsh accusation,” Esposito said. “How do you think that makes my mother feel?”
Esposito, who spent hour upon hour at city meetings in order to create his art, said Brogan is a nice guy, but in this case incredibly misguided, so misguided in fact that it took Esposito’s breath away.
The rough neighborhoods were the ones that welcomed the murals. Esposito said the neighborhood kids hung out during the process. At Mose’s Market kids would show up in white T-shirts and ask for custom done work, which the artists gladly did.
“Free. We painted the murals for free,” he said, and their T-shirts.
As American as apple pie and baseball
Consider that their art form of choice originated in America. It’s argued whether it was Philly or New York City, but East Coast is for certain. And now it is created all over the world, with paint lines dedicated to it.
Esposito’s crew travels near and far to paint jams. Syracuse is the most uptight city they have painted. By contrast, Rochestery throws parties for muralists while they are working.
“They understand we are trying to help,” he said.
Esposito said the work they did in Syracuse “paid,” but not in dollars, instead in neighborhood pride. But then the frustration of dealing with city officials just became overwhelming, snuffing out the passion he had for any public art projects.
“These people want to have meetings, meetings and meetings” we could have painted five murals in the time we spent just at our first couple of meetings he said.
“You have a city full of artists, our canvas is walls,” Lazore said, “If the city would just open up to us.”
And ultimately if the city is going to pay workers to paint over the murals, Esposito’s crew said, they’d do it a lot cheaper.