Steve Powers’ Love Letters are shaping up perfectly

steve-powers-love-letters-philadelphia

You gotta give it to the man for creating such an awesome gift for his hometown.  As previously noted, Steve Powers A Love Letter For You is currently under production and you can follow the progress as well as read great small bits on the projects’ blog.  Since I really enjoyed the personal history of Steve Powers, I’ve re-published it below

1_Steve_19894

Hello, My name is Steve Powers, I was born in Lankenau Hospital, but curiously enough, on my birth certificate they make a point of listing my birthplace as Overbrook, although I’m 100 percent certain that Lankenau is in Lower Merion.  Lower Merion’s price for rejecting me? Stolen Polo garments off the clothes lines and stolen paint and bikes out of the garages of the township. We’re even now, thanks.  My mother grew up in a rented apartment in a good looking building at Lancaster and Drexel, and by the time I hit the scene, had moved a  block and a half away in a rundown slum house with 24 (yeah) cats and 5 humans that were doing their best not to interact with each other. we were joined by my little sister a little more than a year later, and our bizarro world Brady Bunch was complete. Dad we called Fad (pronounced Fahd), after my oldest brother’s mispronounciation of dad. It was an awesome name, because he wasn’t much of a father, and he passed through my life like a fad. Havent seen that fool in 25 years. he split when I was 15, when my latest and greatest interest was an activity that demanded that I have a distracted single-parent unable to grasp that I was running wild (well, mild) at all hours. So Earl, thanks for leaving, really, no hard feelings. and Mary Jane, Thanks for staying and keeping the lights on for when I (eventually) got home.

So once my dad kicks the bricks, I go out and find me a real role model. a stand-up guy that’s got his head screwed on tight and good data to unselfishly share with me, for nothing more than the paint I would supply for the lesson. Suroc, aka Nick-E-Dee, aka Falcon. pka Buford Youthword, a standup guy from Avondale street, showed me the ways and means of making a name for yourself. We painted this rooftop in 1989, well into my 5th year of marking surfaces, and 2 years after I painted my first rooftop on Market Street, a building Suroc took me to paint. The rooftops were the perfect location for work. Largely forgotten spaces on the tops of buildings that youth would climb and put their personalities on display for the passing trains and the pasengers who passed their commute looking at the names that encapsulated those personalities; RAZZ, ESTRO, MR BLINT, CREDIT, CLYDE, RAN and MANIAC to mention a few.  Suroc and I spoke our piece alongside those guys and added to the visual cocaphony that was Market Street in the 80’s.

One day in the mid-90’s it all got buffed brown. Nobody remembers when exactly, but it happened, efficiently, completely permanently.  I find it interesting that no one noticed that a hundred full color walls suddenly went brown. That was always the problem with graffiti, for all it’s efforts to communicate, most people don’t understand it and if people don’t understand, they don’t take ownership, and your  name gets taken down like a campaign poster in December. In our fame-addled America it’s easy to understand the motivation to write your name,  a lot harder to appreciate the unreadable result. If you did make your name easy to process, you leave your audience cold after the 10th time they’ve seen your name, never mind the 100th or the 1000th. “I get it, you’re everywhere except the electric chair, (shout out to JS), but I don’t care.” So in creating Love Letter, thinking about the medium of marking that made me the artist I am today,  thinking about the amazing West Philadelphia that gave me the inspiration to do it, and finally the commuters that ride the train, I’m looking to make colors and words happen on these rooftops and walls in a way that people will take ownership of the work. So if the buffman comes back around, people will shout him down.

originally published here

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