Artists Below are brief bios of some of the artists contributing to Atlanta’s street art collection. Another great resource for information on Atlanta artists is CommonCreativ ATL magazine.
Brandon Sadler is a Gwinnett country native who now lives in East Point. Sadler also goes by the name Rising Red Lotus. The bio on Brandon’s website has a beautiful explanation of the significance of the name Rising Red Lotus as follows. “A name which also serves as a mantra telling the story of the lotus who’s roots were sown deep in the mud of good and evil, who gathered nutrients from both sides, and rose to the surface to become whole”. The process of becoming whole has significance for Brandon who grew up bi-racial in the deep south. Sadler experienced some if this “mud” as he expressed in a 2016 interview with ArtsAtl. “I wasn’t accepted by whites, and there were fights and stuff with that. I wasn’t accepted by Blacks because I was light-skinned. Later in life, I had this identity shit going on where I was realizing I could be anything because of that seesaw of ambiguity. Now it’s something I embrace.”
Sadler was immersed in art almost from birth as his mother was an art teacher. He refined his observational skills as a graffiti artist with the name Lean One. He continued his formal art education receiving a fine arts degree in painting and illustration from SCAD Atl. Brandon’s interests in martial arts and kung fu movies led him to a love and understanding of Asian culture. These Asian themes form the basis for much of Brandon’s artwork. Brandon uses multiple disciplines including visual art, calligraphy, writing and film.
Brandon’s trademark visual vocabulary includes a mashup of Chinese calligraphy and graffiti influenced by a year of living in Korea. He has created multiple alphabets of English characters constructed with Asian brushwork. Each alphabet has it own visual attributes. He selects the alphabet that best fits the essence of the mural it adorns. You can see Brandon’s murals created for Living Walls, The Atlanta Beltline, Outerspace Project, and private commissions all over Atlanta. Brandon’s work is also part of the permanent collection of Atlanta’s High Museum of Art.
Link to Brandon Sadler’s website: http://www.risingredlotus.com
Georgia native Chris Veal was born in Millidgeville. Better employment opportunities drew Chris to Atlanta’s Old 4th Ward in 1999. Veal has always loved art. He started out doing graffiti, advanced to commissioned work and then studied graphic design at American InterContinental University. Chris is comfortable with several art media but his favorite medium is spray paint. When CommonCreativ ATL asked Chris to describe his style in a 2016 interview, here was his response. “I can’t [laughs]. It changes from piece to piece. One day it’s graffiti, the next it’s portraits, the week after might be something completely different. I really just enjoy trying new things. Sticking 100 percent to one style always sounded boring to me. This has been a downfall for me though, because I meet people all the time that never put together that the same guy who painted the birds at the Highland Bakery is the guy who’s painting Ninja Turtles in Little Five [Points]”.
One of Chris’ best known works was located on the former Marco’s Pita facing Ponce De Leon Ave. This retro pop art inspired mini mural was a commentary on the changes that the Old 4th Ward has seen in recent years. The former lower middle class neighborhood has seen an influx of more affluent gentrifiers who turn up their noses at things that have been integral to the fabric of the neighborhood for years such as the day laborers in the Home Depot parking lot. This clever piece of spray art caused quite the social media buzz. It also caught the eye of Creative Loafing Magazine. Chris earned the following two highly coveted CL Best of awards: “Best Mural” and “Best Critique of the Urban Bourgeois”. Unfortunately all street art has a limited life span and alas this insightful mural is no longer with us.
Link to Chris Veal’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/caveal/
Fabian “Occasional Superstar” Williams is an Atlanta-based visual and performance artist best known for his fluorescent, symbolism-filled mural work depicting black cultural and civil rights leaders in modern and futuristic contexts. Williams is also known for his work depicting the seemingly state-sanctioned violence perpetrated against black men.
Born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Williams studied fine art at East Carolina University. After working for 13 years in the advertising industry with a long list of clients from Nike, Warner Bros to HBO, he decided to move to a purely expressive practice, where he had the freedom to express more political and socially relevant contemporary themes.
Assessing and updating the Black Arts Movement’s centering of a racialized aesthetic, Williams’ vibrant and sometimes neony illuminated art interrogates both the liberatory and oppressive forces at play in black American life. In his entire body of work, Williams employs a broad scope of source material from commercial illustration, classic portraiture, and hip-hop iconography, to confront issues of race and the larger public’s oft uninterrogated consumption of black cultural icons and products. Williams’ early realist paintings were of the men who he played pick-up ball with on Venice Beach, California during his stint in marketing and design.
Through his formal education, Williams cultivated an interest in realism, particularly the work of Italian painter, Carvaggio. He also is stylistically inspired by the naturalistic works of Norman Rockwell. His series Rockingwell, an homage to Rockwell, re-imagines Rockwell’s depictions of America through a racial and pop-culturally informed lens. In much of his work, Williams often idealizes the seemingly ordinariness of black life and situates hip hop icons and everyday citizens alike in sometimes idyllic and sometimes imperfect postures.
Fabian’s works have been featured at Art Basel, on CNN, Headline News, Great Big Story, in The Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Playboy Magazine, The Atlanta Journal Constitution and a host of other media outlets.
Link to Fabian Williams’ website: http://occasionalsuperstar.com
Connecticut Native Gregory Michael Menching (better known as Greg Mike) became fascinated by graffiti during trips to nearby New York City as a child. Greg began experimenting with graffiti in the streets at age 12. He incorporated the cartoon images from the golden age of animation that he grew up with. As an adult Greg transitioned into a gallery and mural artist and became a central pillar of the Atlanta art scene. As a teenager the colors, linework and surrealism typically found in graffiti and street art along with imagery from classic cartoons inspired Greg. Today, they are still the sources of inspiration for Greg’s adult murals and canvas work. In a 2011 article in Jezebel, Greg stated: “I’m drawn to creating something that couldn’t exist in real life.” Greg attended Florida State and frequently visited Atlanta during his college years. Fortunately for Atlanta, Gregg chose Atlanta as his home.
Greg is well-known for his iconic Larry Loudmouf character seen all over Atlanta and all around the world. Larry Loudmouf born out of a near death experience Greg had in college is a reminder that life is short and precious. Greg created a line of clothing called Carpe Denim. He is also the founder of the ABV Gallery and Agency providing services ranging from branding to web design to product packaging. ABV gallery is also a contemporary art exhibition space hosting internationally acclaimed artists. Greg’s ABV Gallery is a cosponsor of the Outer Space Project, an annual Atlanta event featuring live art competitions, pop-up art galleries, extreme sports demonstrations, and live music. The Outer Space Project adds more than a dozen brand new murals to Atlanta’s collection of public art each year. A goal of the Outer Space Project is to expand the reach of Atlanta’s street art from a just a few neighborhoods to all of Atlanta.
Link to Greg Mike’s website: http://www.gregmike.com
Link to Outer Space Project website: http://www.outerspaceproject.com
Hense (Alex Brewer)
Alex Brewer was born in Atlanta in 1978 and grew up in a creative home with an architect and an interior designer as parents. Brewer began doing unauthorized street art in the early 1990’s at the age of 13 under the name Hense. Alex still keeps the Hense moniker today. Brewer became immersed in graffiti culture and became well known for leaving his “Hense” tag all over the city. Brewer graduated from Grady High School, then went on to attend Virginia Commonwealth University. Brewer’s time at college was brief as the siren song of the graffiti wall drew him back to his beloved street art. In 2000 Alex got a job in the art publishing business that allowed him to experiment with different art materials and techniques.
The skills developed and honed during his unauthorized graffiti years have served Alex well in the present as a successful commissioned artist. Brewer is now known for his large scale public site specific commissioned works. A great example in Atlanta is the West Side Cultural Arts Center. His largest installation for the ISIL Institute in Lima Peru is 40 meters (137 feet) tall and 50 meters (170 feet) wide. A small sample of Brewer’s long list of clients would include Apple, Facebook, Hilton, and The High Museum of Art.
Brewer works in different media from spray paint to wood cut-outs. In a 2014 DesignBoom interview, Brewer said this about his work: “I describe my public works as contemporary public art and my paintings as contemporary painting. I’m interested in the relationships of elements, shapes and colors and how they interact with each other. Mark making is a form of expression that I like to focus on as well. I think a lot about context and where the work will be seen.” Brewer’s work ranges from powerful and hyperactive to calm and peaceful, but it is ALWAYS colorful. The ends of Brewer’s dynamic range are exemplified in Atlanta by the facade of the Westside Cultural Arts Center and the mural under the Virginia Ave. bridge. The Westside work reminds me of streamers flying through the air at a New Years Eve party as the party horns blast. Whereas Brewer’s Virginia Ave. street art reminds me of Monet’s water lilies.
Link to Alex Brewer’s website: http://hensethename.com
Molly Rose Freeman
Molly Rose Freeman is originally from Durham, NC but now makes her home in Atlanta. She received her high school diploma in Visual Arts from the North Carolina School of the Arts. Her BA in Creative Writing is from the University of North Carolina. Molly has painted murals with many organizations including Living Walls and the Atlanta Beltline. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and W Hotels are just two of Molly’s many clients.
Moving from small rigid and confined environments to large and open interactive environments seems to be a recurring theme for Molly. For example she transitioned from a rigid parochial school environment that wasn’t a good fit for her to the NC school for the arts where she thrived. A similar transition also played out in her artistic journey that took her from highly detailed studio work to large-scale mural work around Atlanta and around the world. A two-week trip to Miami in 2011 accelerated her journey. There she assisted some muralists and decided to become a muralist herself. Getting outside of the studio allowed Molly to interact with the overall environment and with the people within that environment. Or as she put it in a 2015 interview with Word of Mouth: “I prefer to make something in the world rather than alone in my studio.” Interaction, collaboration, and establishing personal connections are an integral part of Molly’s work.
A key waypoint in Molly’s journey into spaces, colors and patterns came when Molly’s mom took her to Italy for 3 weeks as a college graduation present. The experience of being inside of cathedrals with their myriad of patterns from the stained glass windows to the vaulting in the ceilings was viscerally soothing and comforting. From than moment on, Molly wanted to re-create these environments through her work.
Molly’s work centers around patterns. She likes to work in radial patterns starting in the center and allowing the pattern to organically and naturally grow outward. Everything in the work is interconnected and interdependent. Molly described her love for patterns in the same 2015 interview with Word of Mouth: “My language is pattern, light, space and movement. Why patterns affect me so deeply is still a mystery. They bypass my brain and go straight into my bloodstream.” In a 2014 Burnaway interview, Molly described an epiphany that solidified the importance of patterns for her: “Years ago, I was doing more traditional figurative and still life paintings. All of the objects were embellished with pattern. It got to the point where I was like, “This is ridiculous, I don’t even care about the thing that I’m painting. I only care about the patterns.”
Link to Molly Rose Freeman’s website: http://mollyrosefreeman.com
Ray Geier (aka sQuishiepuss) is originally from Cincinnati Ohio. He moved to Atlanta in 2011. Ray’s love for art started when he was nine years old and he was pretty good at it. But for Ray art stopped being fun and started to become a chore when he ended up drawing what others wanted him to draw instead of what he wanted to draw. So ray put his visual artwork aside for two decades. Ray still pursued the arts by playing in a punk band. After a few years of pursuing a corporate career path with less than spectacular results Ray realized that pursuing his own ideas would be a better way to go. This is when Ray dusted off his artistic skills. Ray’s first model was his French Bulldog. When ray drew a mash-up of his dog’s squishie face with an octopus body, “squishiepuss” was born. Despite not having formal artistic training Ray successfully taught himself graphic design, screen printing, stencil work, spray painting and acrylic fine art painting.
In a 2016 interview with beatlanta here’s how Ray described his style: ” I’d like to think my style comes from new school style tattoos, skateboard graphics and comic books. All of these things were cultures I surrounded myself in my teen years. The idea was to marry these styles with cartoons and graffiti.” Ray went on to say that his influences included his dogs, Ren and Stimpe, and old Hannah Barbara cartoons.
Ray collects action figures including over 400 Ninja Turtles figures. Ray is the founder of the Hellions YouTube channel. Through Hellions Ray interviews other artists and gives other artists advice on the business side of being an artist.
Link to Ray Geier’s website: http://squishiepuss.com