Thursday, February 25, 2021

Arthur Cayo Interview

X: Over the summer, anyone with eyes in Providence started to see your work popping up all over the city. Mostly in Downtown, and around Olneyville. Your work on the Uniroyal tire building, which has now been demolished (a portrait of Breanna Taylor surrounded by neon stenciled hearts) became one the most posted images on RI Social Media of the summer (with many people not knowing who was behind it). I think for many this mural spoke very clearly to the pain and rage at the injustice that’s been built into the core of American institutions, but also expressed other emotional things that resonated with many. People posted on social media things in response to it like: “after this week I needed to see this' '.  Your Instagram account is @artforsociety.  From this and other things that you’ve posted I’ve taken this as a pretty straight forward description of what your project is. Making art for society (obviously this has an extra layer, since your name is Art!).  How did you get started making art, and was there always a social component for you? 

A: I mostly paint portraits. Most of the people I paint I know and use painting to get to know people as well. The social component is a recent thing. It's a tool. You know Art can be used in many ways. As you know I could have painted a bunch of people that lost their lives to the hands of the police but Breonna's Story stood out the most. She was sleeping. 




X: Did the paintings on the Uniroyal building get demolished with the building?


A: The paintings did get destroyed on the building. I asked if they could not demolish them and they said that they couldn't stop. 




X: It seems like painting portraits was your main thing for a while, but at some point stencils and geometry started to work their way into your compositions. How did you get interested in stencils? 


A: So when the riots and the looting happened I put out a FB message saying that I would paint a mural on any boarded up business. Little did I know every business downtown was boarding up. Got a ton of action, rolled up my sleeves and got to work. I came up with the heart stencil because it was a good quick effective universal message. 



X: Many of your portraits have a red stripe or section across the bottom. This creates a really visually striking connection between them all when looking at them as a body of work. I’ve been curious about this red since I first saw your portraits! Do you see your portraits as connected to each other and does this red area play a role in connecting them? 


A: At first the red bars on the bottom of my work were for measurement purposes then they become my style. Red is my color! 



X: It seems like your portraits are a mix of people who you know, and others who might fall into the category of “personalities” or celebrities. In the exhibit in the Dirt Palace Window, there is a portrait of Audre Lorde & Buddy Cianci, you’ve also done paintings of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Harriet Tubman, Andre the Giant & Gina Raimundo. How do you decide who you’re going to paint?  


A: Gina, RBG, Buddy, Harriet all those paintings came about or resurfaced due to timing relating to black history. Gina leaving. People hate Gina. It was Buddy’s birthday around the time I dropped off work for the installation. 


X: You paint on canvas, but also plywood when you’re doing murals. How do these experiences compare? 


A: Painting on plywood is coo! When I paint at home, i'm using oil paints. On the road i'm using acrylics and spray paint and the scale is a lot larger. Doing the murals I realized that oddly enough I work faster outside. 



X: So much of your work has people at the center, they’re either portraits, or people in movement, playing sports, skateboarding etc. But then there’s a body of work that is really geometric, almost quilt like in their complexity. And some pieces where these are styles are mixed. Do you feel like the storytelling is different in these two modes? What do you like most about each way of working? Some of your work circulates in a “public art” or “street art” context. Are there other folks doing art in public places, in Providence or elsewhere who inspire you, or who you collaborate with? Who you’ve seen from afar and wondered about (like I was about you before I learned who was putting up all of these amazing murals with hearts...lol)



A: The quilt looking piece - that's what the aim was. It came to be based off a heart mural. I met Eric who has ties to The Avenue Concept and they reached out to me about doing a mural. They loved the hearts and the positive vibe. I was teamed up with @_gregwashere_.  We talked about the quilt idea. I cut out some stencils and we made it happen. Greg is a very dope artist. I met a lot of dope artists over the summer. I don't know if i would have met so many art people if it wasn't for the pandemic. I'm pretty sure not. So i'm grateful for the artist community they really showed up and showed out and i'm glad to be a part of it. 








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