Q&A W/ Lewis Miller, Jackie Chang, and Cire One Loc

Lewis Miller: Florist specializing in large street installations with flowers

Jackie Chang: Public artist and community activist making commissioned and temporary street art

Cire One Loc: Street artist creating graffiti

What was it like entering the art scene? How did you decide to pursue the medium and platform you did?

Lewis Miller: “I grew up in Central Valley in California so it was very agricultural. It’s where my love for flowers and plants started. And then I started the flower flashes because I needed to be creative in a way I hadn’t seen before. I didn’t know it was going to become a thing. I got to do this for myself and for other people and not have to worry about monetary transactions. It only takes 20 or 30 minutes to make and it’s so fast and spontaneous. I liked that fast energy. It’s the opposite of what my day job is. Flowers are what I love and they don’t last very long. That’s what makes flowers so special, they’re a very temporary thing. And if I love something and I know somebody else is going to love it too, I want to share my love of that.”

Jackie Chang: “As a person of color and female, it was so important to be able to occupy and really take over public space.So I could be heard and I could be seen… I may have the advantage of having a master’s degree in fine art in a way that it legitimatized who I am as an “artist.” When I got into street art, it was because I didn’t want to be in a gallery system. I had a gallery in Chicago for years and what I came to realize was the people that I want to see my work don’t get a chance to see it. I think it’s really important to encourage the public, to be much more vocal about what they’re seeing and to be much more critical of it, to be able to have spaces, to engage in it. I think it’s important for the public to have that discussion. And as a street artist, as a visual artist, a lot of people don’t even know what I look like. So it’s not about who I like, if my name wasn’t there, they wouldn’t even know I’m Asian. So there’s an anonymous aspect to doing it. I feel like my work will be judged for what it is versus for who I am.”

Cire One Loc: “The Look Out Crew was the most respected crew in my neighborhood growing up in Greenpoint Brooklyn. I looked up to those guys when I started writing in 1986. Boltism and Atomic were crushing the trains and they were among my first inspirations in graff. They are my major influences to start writing graffiti. There is a definite political change element to graffiti vandalism… it was always about ‘F*** the system.’ The trains were the perfect moving canvases. Eventually, I gave up on graffiti for twenty years to raise my family. In 2012, though, I was invited to a block party event and when I saw the building covered in graff and seeing my old friends it reignited my love for the art form… and my ego said ‘you can do it better than most of these cats!!’ So here I am back at it. Sometimes following the big paydays and corporate careers can stunt your creativity… that definitely impacted my creative mind… something was missing for 20 years of my life…  As for mediums, I work in all mediums but the most unforgiving is magic markers. I paint with acrylic on canvas, oil paints, I use charcoal to draw as well. But spray paint is great for certain visual effects and is very forgiving to the artist!””

What advice do you have for upcoming artists?

Lewis Miller: “I think we’re in a crazy time right now and it’s important to remind yourself daily what it is you love, what keeps you going.” 

Jackie Chang: “You have to be able to create your own opportunities because true power is having options. Allow yourself to go not only where you’re interested but also where you’re needed. If you’re needed and you’re good at what you do, you’re going to be successful.”

Cire One Loc: “Get up and put the work in, but stay safe and out of jail… don’t ruin your life for the approval of strangers!”

How do you feel about the climate our country is in right now and what actions do you believe need to be taken?

Lewis Miller: “I feel like the whole model of the whole world needs to change and the way businesses are done. We’re going to have to have things be done in a more community-based, much more charitable way to have much more transparency and give back as much as we possibly can. So that’s been heavy on my mind during all of this. The great thing is that at the end of the day, we’re creating a whole other world. However we want to. So we can either create it being reactionary and fear-based, or create it with something new. We may not even know yet. And I think the only way to navigate through life right now is to follow our inner instinct. There is nothing else Our guide has to be listened to. Life has always been so busy… So much chatter, so much distraction. And we don’t have that now. So we need to go inward and kind of figure this out collectively AND individually.”

Jackie Chang: “I actually have moments of like ‘Oh my God, what the hell are we going to do?’ and that’s really frightening. But this is why I’m relying on people. You have the energy to really question what exists and then come up with good strategies for how to move forward that you benefit from. By benefiting on your own, others will definitely benefit, as well. There’s a really good book called “Collapse” and it’s all about how societies and cultures have collapsed because no one did anything. They all knew, but they didn’t find any solutions. And I feel like we’re there. We all know that there’s a problem. Oh, we even know what the problem is. But we’re not coming up with new solutions. [Trump is] operating in our old system and he wants to not only be perpetuated but glorified. He wants to glorify white supremacy. That’s basically what it is. And to do that, he has to stick with the old system because that’s the system that works for them. This is why we have to do something. Because to do nothing would just cause a collapse. For me real change has to happen by changing what we decide to do every single day. So each individual, it shouldn’t be ‘oh, I agree with you.’ You need to change the decisions you make every single day. That’s how real change is made. The moment you get up in the morning, decide how you’re going to engage with the world. I think that’s where revolution happens.”

Cire One Loc: “It’s a strange time we are living in, [we’ve] gotta destroy to rebuild. Police brutality has been a big problem in the country for a long time. The pandemic just allowed people to see it clearly without distractions from work and other activities. The city has lost some of its energy right now due to the pandemic restrictions but we bounce back… it was worse in the 1970s and 80s… the financial crisis now is similar to what happened in the 80s…. But this extra time allows for more art! In a weird way, the city is a kinder place right now… with more art. We will be better [because of] this experience… better police, better neighbors…Just be a better human.”

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