Based in Brooklyn, Misha Tyutyunik aka MDOT is an accomplished painter, muralist and illustrator. His recent venture, fashioned along with a team of Groundswell youth, looms large at 11 Howard Street in SoHo. Earlier this week, we visited his studio and had the opportunity to speak to him.
When and where did you first make your mark on the streets?
Back in 1999, Wisher 914 and I hit up the water tower in Mohegan Lake in North Westchester where we grew up. But my outdoor work is largely commissioned murals. I painted my first one for SoBro in the Bronx in 2006. My most recent one is a collaboration with Groundswell youth at 11 Howard Street in SoHo, the site of Aby Rosen’s latest hotel venture.
You’re also a prolific painter of smaller works – from works on paper to paintings on huge canvases. Have you exhibited your works in gallery settings?
Do you have a formal arts education? And was it worthwhile?
Yes, I have a BFA in Design and Illustration from Pratt. And, yes, as I learned how to problem solve through creative means.
Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?
I spent my first seven years in the Ukraine, and was definitely influenced by social realism. Other influences include: graffiti in its heyday; Japanese prints; abstract expressionism; traditional mural painting and German expressionism.
What about artists? Any particular influences?
Do you prefer working alone or collaborating with others?
I used to prefer working alone, but lately I’ve become more open to collaboration. I recently collaborated with Chris Soria.
If you could collaborate with any artist – alive or deceased – with whom would you collaborate?
How does your family feel about what you are doing?
They love it! None of them are artists, but they all love what I am doing!
What percentage of your time is devoted to art?
Pretty much all of it.
Is art the main source of your income?
Yes, the money I earn from commissions, along with income from teaching mural-making and art sales. I’ve also begun working on fashion design.
How you feel about the role of the Internet in this scene?
It’s everything! Without the Internet I’d be nowhere.
Are you generally satisfied with your finished work?
I think so. But the question is: Is anything ever really finished?
How has your artwork evolved in the past few years?
By leaps and bounds! I’m much more comfortable than I used to be with different styles. My visual language has become more confident.
As your work on the streets is largely commissioned murals, have you run into any conflicts with street artists or graffiti writers?
On occasion. While painting a commissioned wall down in DC, for example, I was approached by graffiti writers who told me that the wall was theirs. When I explained to them what I was doing and they saw my work in progress, they came around.
What do you see as the role of the artist in society?
I see my role as to reflect on our times, while bringing a strong aesthetic sensibility back into a largely conceptual realm.
Everything! Taking over the art world!
That’s quite ambitious! Are there any particular projects we can look forward to?
I am currently painting an anti-gun violence mural in conjunction with BRIC, and I will soon begin working on a mural with Groundswell youth at Stapleton in Staten Island. And opening tonight and continuing through March 31 is The Internal Muse, a selection of my new paintings at Melet Mercantile at 84 Wooster Street in SoHo.
It all sounds great! Congratulations!
Interview conducted by Lois Stavsky with Tara Murray
Photo credits: 1 & 2 courtesy Lindsey Brown McLravy | SLATE PR; 3, 5 & 6 Lois Stavsky; 4 Tara Murray