Eddie Colla is a hard man to track down, but seems to be everywhere at the same time. The infamous San Francisco based street artist has been busy over the past few months on numerous gallery exhibitions, not to mention street pieces that pop up from time to time. We caught up with Eddie as he was finishing the final touches on a mural project that is his largest to date.
We hear you’ve been at work on your largest mural intall to date, can you tell us a bit about it?
I was commissioned to do a piece for MA-velous Cafe on Market street. I had the luxury of basically doing what ever I wanted. The dimensions of the thing were a bit awkward, it’s a 4′ x 50′ ft mural. It’s a really difficult composition. It’s so long and narrow that I basically used it as a story board for a character that I have developed over the last year. For me that character functions as a vehicle, for calling into question ideas about a changing world and our future. The Chinese text on the piece, loosely translated, reads “I have a name, but that doesn’t matter. This is my life.”. Within that life and that character, as within any life, are a complex set of overlapping contingent issues, disconnected observations and fantasies. They read in a linear manner, so it’s hard to decipher the observations from the fantasies. I tried to touch on a lot of themes about alienation, both from each other and from our environment and the increasing threats they both pose. There are also fantasies about empowerment and sexuality which I think stem from the subjugation of authority. At face value it’s a bunch of pictures of a Chinese girl and a bike.
People are busy, I try to put my message in their path. That’s reasonable to me. If you want to be seen and communicate you need to be where the people are. In urban environments, that’s on the street. Galleries and such are great, they’re important culturally and moreover economically but they’re not exactly the conduit to the masses. Urban environments are overwhelmingly dominated by utilitarian signage and advertising. I’m just trying to put something out there that, whether people like it or not, initiates some kind of dialogue. A dialogue that isn’t focused around consumer products. There is a beautiful democracy to street art. Corporations spend ridiculous amounts of money putting their messages out there and I can go out and compete with that. I can put my commentary right next to them or over them. I can interrupt their conversation and change the subject. That’s very appealing to me.
The masks and gloves are indicators. They represent fear, danger and protection. It may be fear of the environment, air quality, diesel particulate matter. It may be fear of infection or one another, as in SARS, Swine flu or immune deficiencies. The masks represent protection from a hostile environment and further alienation. Beyond the obvious external dangers is the social and psychological impact they present. Operating from a survival mentality drastically alters peoples value system. How disconnected will we have to become in the future to be safe and at what level will that disconnection affect the collapse of natural order?
Which artists inspire your work?
In no particular order
D Young V, Mel Ramos, James Rosenquist, Warhol, C215, ABCNT, Cryptik, Zoltron, Ray Noland, Joel Peter Witkin, MIke and Doug Starn, Banksy, David LaChapelle, Nobuyoshi Araki, Hugh Leeman, Rauschenberg, Gaia, Greg Gossel, James Swinson, Larry Sultan, JR, GATS, C. Kirk, BAST, I probably forgot some important people but I’m not really good at lists.