Miley Cyrus Painting Interview


Why did you decide to paint Miley Cyrus?

For one thing, I had a show to do 16×16 with some red in it.  Miley seemed to be a good fit.  Besides I was tired of artists regurgitating Marilyn Monroe 1000 times since the 1960s.  Dude, she’s dead, let her rest in peace, so we can blog on the next Marilyn Monroe of the 2000s. Marilyn is so 20th century Pop. Once Warhol did it, you are just copying and playing like the 1960s never died.  It was 70 years ago!

maryilyn 1 Warhol

marilyn 2 marilyn 3Modern Copies

So are you saying Miley is the next Marilyn? Isn’t that a bit over the top?

I think the more appropriate comparison would be the next Madonna or Lady Gaga or even Elvis than comparing to Marilyn. Miley started as a typical Disney child singer and has turned this image completely on its head.  She distanced herself from her childhood laurels of Disney Hannah Montana into her own image. Now noone even knows the Hannah Montana reference except her fans.

miley 1Disney Star

miley 2 Transition

miley 3Miley!

Was the shaved head and twerking necessary to her success? Some just shake their head at this.

miley 4

An interesting take on this is looking at Elvis.  When Elvis started, he was second string in an R&B band where he learned all his music and then developed his own dance style that was absolute scandalous at the time.  Miley simply took the basis of the time of shock, say Madonna, with her wild cone boobs and taken it to the next level with twerking.

elvis 1Learning trade

elvis 2Full dance craze

madonna 1

So what elements do you have in the background of your Miley painting?

I have some of the more known scandals that Miley took on to become more famous and draw criticism, which her fans would then ferociously defend. Its kind of a classical become famous, create some scandal, stay famous, sell more records, repeat. One of themes of the day is whether to legalize cannabis usage, which she played up by wearing a marijuana type dress at one of her concerts to play into this modern controversy.

miley weedPlaying up the cannibis controversy

Another fun escapade was playing up the controversy of the porn industry, which has really blossomed as the download speeds have increased from dial-up modem to cable.  Miley takes this on by staging just below porn to be acceptable to her crowd while driving concerned parents into a stir of should I let my daughter see this?

miley dildomiley ball

Another controversy was at a concert in Mexico one of her dancer swatted her with the Mexican flag, which drew some criticism from Mexican fan base.

miley flag

Are these relevant at all long term?

Well, I think the shaved head look will definitely be the bad haircut of the decade similarly to how mullets were notorious in the 1980s.  If you look, several female stars have copied Miley’s move to short hair:

miley copy 1 miley hair copy 2 Kanye West Show : Front Row - Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2012

Of course, you could say that Miley copied the look from the infamous scene in V for Vendetta where Natalie Portman gets forced to have her head shaved in her imprisonment in V’s fake prison.  Could be also a take on Demi Moore shaving her head in GI Jane.  In any case, it really hits the nail on the head of picking up this famous scene into a fashion that other female celebrities have tried to rock.

shaved headgi jane

So what is 4 out of 5 dentists approve line?

Back in the 1970s, Trident chewing gum had this great commercial for its sugarfree gum that dentists actually approve this gum over others.  It makes you wonder if the 5th dentist was in the pocket of the sugar industry or what.  Maybe he was in the pocket of Disney execs, who likely are shaking their head at Miley ruining their income for old Hannah Montana video rental streams.

4 out of 5 dentistsmad mickey

Is this painting in a show?

Yes, currently at it is in the RED art show for this month and next.

Je Suis Charile

Screen shot 2015-01-11 at 9.28.08 AM

So what do you make of the events?

It was a very sad day that radical extremists decided to attack free speech in Paris.  The history of free speech and making fun of the religious leaders dates back to the 1800s at least, so this was an attack at the heart of what is France and the West.  It struck a cord with most democratic societies from all walks of life, since it is a basis for a functioning democracy and a tale tale sign if you are in an autocracy or theocracy.

How do you think artists responded?

Screen shot 2015-01-11 at 9.22.36 AMScreen shot 2015-01-11 at 9.31.31 AM Screen shot 2015-01-11 at 9.32.05 AM Screen shot 2015-01-11 at 9.32.22 AM Screen shot 2015-01-11 at 9.33.43 AM Screen shot 2015-01-11 at 9.35.27 AM Screen shot 2015-01-11 at 9.36.04 AM

For artists, it really strikes a nerve in the sense that what you draw can get you killed.  All artists are aware of cases like the “Satanic Verses” driving the author to live a secluded secret life for a decade thanks to the declaration or fatwa of an Iranian cleric to a death sentence.  The crazy thing is this fatwa cannot be rescinded since the original imam died, so it is still in place technically in Iranian islamic law. All creatives are aware of the danger of pissing off these radical societies where one form of religion is put above individual rights as “honor”.  Hell, they even kill people for adultery in some places as part of an “honor killing” sick as it sounds.

Screen shot 2015-01-11 at 10.02.10 AM

Are these honor killings only in the most Islamic countries?

The UN estimates that up to 5,000 women are killed every year for honor crimes in the Middle East and South Asia. These killings are varied: strangulation, acid throwing, hanging, throat slashing, beheading, stoning, stabbing and shooting.  In these cultures of nomadic peoples men create the honor while women can destroy that honor.  The honor is seen as the highest esteem of reputation and the basis for their justice system.

Screen shot 2015-01-11 at 9.49.44 AM

Were these honor killings of women ever in the West?

Back in Ancient Rome, adulterous women were killed and during medieval times Jews would kill adulterous women as well. Note, that both intersected the Middle East cultures as well, so there is a long regional tradition stemming from the Middle East area. As Islam has spread, you have seen these ideas spread to central Africa.

Have you painted anything related to this honor killing theme?


Black Widow in the Garden of Eden – 24×48

Not exactly, but I do have a related painting related to women’s honor role in a tribal Islamic society in Chechnya called “Black Widow in the Garden of Eden”.  This young couple met a dire fate: the husband was killed by Putin’s army against Chechen rebel leaders and his young widow joined a suicide bomber group – the Black Widows.  Part of the reason behind her decision to join the group was her lack of choice within her culture.  As a widow, she would likely never be remarried because under “honor” the men only want virgin brides.  So her choice was to be single the rest of her life or leave her tribe and culture.  To regain “honor” of her fallen husband she joined this Black Widows group. Her “job” was to bomb the metro station in Moscow, Russia.


The Power of the Have Nots 3/10 – 10×10

Another related painting series was the attack on Malala Yousafzai called the “Power of the Have Nots”.  In this case a young girl was blogging about life under the Taliban in Pakistan and standing up for girl education.  The Taliban saw this as an afront to Islamic extreme version of male honor with women to be subservient to their rule and tried to assassinate this girl.  Luckily, she was saved and brought to London to continue her struggle for girl education in her homeland of Pakistan. Unfortunately, local tribes see this as a CIA plot to split their society, which isn’t totally far fetched after the CIA did in fact use vaccination workers to track the location of Osama Bin Laden.  Now these same tribes are not getting vaccinated and driving the increase in untreatable tuberculosis.  So you have to ask yourself was killing Osama Bin Laden worth the spread of an near-extinct curable disease?

Screen shot 2015-01-11 at 10.25.52 AM

So do you think these types of attacks are justified?

Not by Western terms, but within these tribal societies governed by honor, they believe they are maintaining their honor within their own communities.  Without honor, you have few friends, likely no job connections and maybe even no job.  So do you have a choice really if you stay within these tribes? Hard to say what one would do if you grew up within these complex tribal societies and saw no exit but to abandon your country, family and friends.

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Interview on “Equality 7.2521″ painting


What do the numbers mean in this painting?

Well, Equality 7.2521 was a character in a novel written by Ayn Rand called “Anthem”.  The number was his randomly assigned number by a purely socialist government in the future.  In the book, the character uses only the “We” form of talking as “I” was banned by this severe government by all for all.  All is well, until he starts to discover individuality and lost secrets of the past.  Interestingly, the author was between major novels and decided to take a “break” by writing this small novella sized novel in between.

anthem book

Why did you want to paint on Anthem society?

The character really crystalizes in an extreme form the move to further and further elements of socialism and away from a pure individualism type of society.  Its ironic that during the Obama administration that new department heads were formed with czar titles, symbolic of Russian autocratic rule.  Examples include:

Czar of AfPak

Czar of AIDS

Asian Carp Czar

Car Czar

Autoworker Czar

czar obama czar

with a total of 38 czars in a supposed democratic society.  It really demonstrates what the intentions of this type of leader are using autocratic leader terms for a democracy.  What respect of democracy does he entertain? Below you can see the parallels between his propaganda and CCCP Soviet propaganda:

change cccp poster

What was this society based on in the book?

Ayn came from Russia and actually oversaw the fall of the Czar to a republic and then the overthrow to red Communists.  Later came the purges to stimmy any voice of dissent.  If you look to modern parallels you can see any voice of dissent against Obama is labelled racist and rewarded.

oprahoprah medal

Even Oprah supposed called critics of Obama racists.  Its really a sad day when leaders use scape goats rather than accept the blame for failed leadership not driving the change they campaigned on.


What are the images in your painting background?

In the background I have a light surrounding the numbers 7.2521, which symbolizes the rediscovery of electricity by this future society. Many will ask, isn’t that preposterous to “lose” an invention.  Actually, if you look to the Roman Empire, they invented cement, but after the fall of Rome in the post 300s AD, people actually lost this technology as the craftsman with the knowledge were no longer valued in the chaos that followed.  It took almost until the 1800s until cement was actively used again in the “scientific” era.  There is a real danger when a society crumbles that key technological advances get lost.


Other elements are the anthem of the Soviet Union “The Internationale”.  Its only fitting reference to the meaning of the words “Anthem” and the reference to a perfect socialist society Ayn Rand emigrated from before the Iron Curtain slammed shut on that opportunity.

Is it for sale?

Yes, at

Interview on “Bling Bling Kid and Safety Stalker Slayer” painting

IMG_1563Bling Bling Kid and Safety Stalker Slayer

Why did you paint on the Trayvon Martin case?

This case hit pretty close to home.  When I was a youth, I had friends on both sides of a brutal rape and murder of a 13 year old girl.  It was a shock to the system that someone you knew could be involved in such a horrible crime and the victim be a classmate of my brother’s at the same time.  The police detectives harassed me for confession letters and forced me to search my house without a warrant by saying they would subpoena me in the case at court to testify against my friend.  My mom had already found the letters and threw them out although he didn’t confess to anything in those letters. Years later it turned out that Chicago police had staged several crime scenes to be able to pin an unsolved case on someone to be able to serve “justice”, which makes you wonder was he really guilty?  In this case, it was black on black crime, which the media quickly forgot after catching the perpetrators.  The really sad part of the case was the mother moved out of the hood in Chicago to the suburbs to raise her daughter outside of that environment.  I suppose by selling drugs in her home she exposed her daughter to some shady elements as well in the process despite being out of the hood.

projectsChicago Projects

Why do you think the jury found George Zimmerman not guilty?

Unfortunately, the way the “stand your ground” law was written in Florida, you can basically follow someone around in your neighborhood and have a stand off right in the middle of the street with little repercussion.  I think the intention of the law was to cut down on drive by shootings of gang bangers, but they have definitely gone too far in the definition of self-defense and in particular this case, since it obviously allows stalking a suspect as allowable.  The interesting point that social media sleuths pointed out was the case of Marissa Alexander, a mother who gave a warning shot to an abusive husband in the name of “stand your ground” yet was sent to prison 20 years. It definitely looks to be like Jim Crow never left the Deep South if you look at just these two cases.  Of course, you need to look at many cases to get the full picture of overall justice being applied in those courts.

fla justice

Why was there such an outcry?

Well, the country has various race history in the Deep South that has been white washed or forgotten over time yet takes a long time to transition out of.  With the election of Obama, some people living on well integrated coasts of the country thought we were living in a post-racial America.  This case showed drastically how powerless Obama was in the face of the existing Florida justice system, which is how it is structured, since he was elected to the Executive not Judicial system. Other elements on the case were his young age and type casting as a thug vigilante despite having no weapon vs. a stalking adult.


What elements do you have of the case in your painting?


Of course, you have to include the Skittles in Trayvon Martin’s pockets, which really captures the fact that this was a youth killed without a weapon.  In the painting, I have 5 rows of 10 columns of circles representing the candy in this kid’s pocket.  The 10 and 5 also represent the bail set for George Zimmerman of $150,000.  Inside the circles I have various photos from the plot leading up to this tragedy.

I included elements representing the “Stand your ground” law and aspirations of George Zimmerman, studying to be a police officer.  He was influenced by the idea of being a neighborhood watch guardian that citizens put together to reduce communal crime. In the case of Sanford, there had been numrerous burglaries in the neighborhood, reported to be by black youth.  So when Trayvon’s family stayed the summer in Sanford, they had no idea the dangerous tempest brewing in Sanford for their son to walk through.

take a bite outneighborhood watch

What were some of the artistic interpretations of the case?

Most of the artists focused on either Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman.  Below are some of the art pieces made from the case besides mine.  The most disturbing trend was George Zimmerman capitalizing on the case by making a flag and court paintings copied direct from photos, altering them in photoshop and then selling them on eBay for $100,000.

trayvon art 5 trayvon art1 trayvon art3 trayvon art4 trayvon art6 zimmerman art

What do you think the selling price of $100,000 says about art collectors?

I would say some collectors look for notoriety and a story in a painting.  This had both as the guy killed a youth and got away with the crime.  I do find it disturbing that eBay and Zimmerman would make money off a terrible event.

slave ship

Are there other paintings of tragedy that are worth so much?  

Turner painted the famous story of a slave ship captain that dumped 133 slaves overboard to be able to make more on the insurance payment for “lost cargo”.  Turner was criticizing the slave trade in this painting, but considering the market value over $32 million, it makes you wonder a bit on the values of the art market itself.

Interview on “Da Worm and Nuke Kid on the Block” painting

Da Worm and Nuke Kid on the Block

Originally uploaded March 2014; hacked and taken offline; reposted

Why did you paint Dennis Rodman on the North Korean Flag?

Well, I saw this interview of Rodman going to North Korea and playing basketball for one of the most hated dictators in the whole world, it was a total bizarre story that I knew I had to paint as soon as I saw his interview. Below is the link to youtube original video:

What do you think of his 2 trips to North Korea?

Personally, my take is that this was set up by President Obama.  If you look at the time of his Senate seat in Illinois, it coincided with the time when Rodman was a NBA star for the Chicago Bulls.  Considering, Springfield, the Senate capitol, is in corn fields, Obama likely fund raised with NBA stars like Rodman as he rode the ranks of power.  This has all the markings of a CIA mission gone astray.

That’s a bold statement; what proof do you have?

If you look back in time, in the 1960s when Nixon opened up China to trade, the US President started out by using pingpong diplomacy to kick off the idea of steering the Chinese away from the Soviet influence.  After the Secret Speech by Khrushchev in 1956, Mao turned away from the USSR as a friend for fear of the population uprising in China against Mao himself.  Below are some photos to put it into perspective.

pingpong4Ping Pong Diplomacy

pingpong diplomacy1960s

pingpong330 years later

forrest gumpForest Gump

What are the various figures in the painting?

I have Dennis Rodman from his interview in a Money suit surrounded with the starving children of North Korea under a broken basketball hoop.  It is an allusion to the fact this country by using strict Communist methods of control of farming led to the disaster of the great famine of 1994-98, where up to one in seven citizens died from bad farming methods of the Kim regime.  This is not the first famine either.  The country sufferred bouts in 1952, 1955.  Only foodbail outs from the West kept the country going.  Ironically, if no country had gave them food, the regime might have fallen in the 1950s.  A similar food bailout in 1920s for the USSR prolonged that regime’s power as well.  So the empathy of “saving” starving families by Western governments actually resulted in prolonged suffering of these countries populations.

Why do you think this blog post was hacked and by whom?

Who knows? It makes the North Korean government and Obama administration look bad, so either could be a candidate.  Most likely though, it was the North Koreans, who are known to have a vicious propaganda machine internally and firewall to prevent the “evils” of the West seeping into their pure society of self-independence and cult worship of the leaders as near gods.

kim statue

Are there other parities of North Korea you like?

One of my favorite films is by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone called “Team America”, which parodies the entire Hollywood idea of kissing up to dictators, who profess to be on their liberal cause side, while actually killing their own population.  It is great to see someone in Hollywood go against the grain, since many who do never work again in Hollywood due to their radicalism of one-sided political views.


Clip from the movie:

Is this for sale?

Yes, in my gallery at

Interview of LA Art Crasher Artist – ShawNshawN



The artistic journey of artist ShawNShawN is one that has been molded by travel, culture and class systems. “My journey started with traveling at a young age. We moved from city to city, state to state and finally country to country. Traveling all over Europe and the US leaves a mark of a self-made gypsy, always moving and reacting to the local scenes I find myself in, recreating my self to various classes, cultures and states. In high school I lived in some dangerous neighborhoods that led to a cynicism of police and justice as I witnessed rich neighborhoods constantly cared for while in poorer neighborhoods the citizens were the enemy similar to what is happening right now in Fergusen, Missouri.”



ShawN’s adventures read like a history book. From the 92′ riots in LA to the fall of the Berlin Wall, he has witnessed history unfold before his very eyes. “While living in Poland I was exposed to the fall of the Berlin Wall, leaving its mark on the evil of dictatorship over the citizenry, police states and the fallacy of big government gone astray on a large scale: food shortages, currency boom and busts, scams, constant burglaries and state corruption. Later, I lived in Spain, which had survived 50 years of Fascism thanks to the Allies deciding not to overthrow Franco after beating Mussolini and Hitler. Spaniards were in the moment celebrating the first decade of freedom after lifetime of dictatorship. I witnessed students block 5 lanes of traffic to petition the government to change school policy and other riots. I actively participated in the National Strike, where everyone literally closed shop and demonstrated before police in full riot gear.”



ShawnShawn watched as Europe rose like phoenix from the ashes, both socially and financially. “Later I lived in Germany in the late 1990s. Here I was witnessing the prolonged techno parties and raves, which got their start after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In Belgium, I studied my MBA in Marketing right as the Euro was being born. Here I learned to study many hours more than in my BA. It truly was grueling work with small pleasures.”

In 2000, ShawN returned to the US and settled in California. “I decided to move to California to ride the Dot Com rush in 2000. Here I saw the collapse of dotcoms over night and the panic of workers as their wealth evaporated overnight. This truly was a place of dreams and broken dreams.”



When ShawNShawN began painting again, he turned to eBay to generate interest and sales. “First I sold on eBay to get started, selling over 35 works online. It was a great experience to get started in the art world once again before moving on to gallery sales.” His work knows no boundaries. He is an experimental artist who has enjoyed working with various styles to grow as an artist. “I first started forming my abstract styles: Free Form and Architectural Abstraction. In free form abstraction, I experimented with metal tools to capture the essence of the paint and pain in the same moment. In Architectural Abstraction, I moved from pure angular work to a very settled systematic angular painting style. From one art show by Augustine Kofie, I was greatly influenced to change from free form angular to my new style Architectural Abstraction based on 30, 90 and 60 degree angles. Along the way, with my background in history and living history, I started my third style: Political Pop. This style takes on large political ideas: freedom, political repression and popular icons from Hollywood and the world in paint. One of my major influences here was Shephard Fairey as well as Mr. Brainwash after seeing “Exit through the Gift Shop”. I look forward to exploring this style as new ideas come to me regularly.”



We were thrilled to not only have ShawNShawN’s work featured in our LA show, but also to have him at the show. He is an artist who puts no barriers between him and his audience. He signed and handed out some of his prints during the show and attendees loved it!


Original article:

Interview on Online Art

OA: What is your favourite film of all time?


SS: One of my favorite films of all time is The Shining by Stanley Kubrick. The original novel was written by Stephen King. What stands out in my mind is the play of isolation, increasing madness and supernatural possession. The little boy, Danny, in the movie has an imaginary friend who acts out the fear of this massive hotel that is possessed and has many mysterious murders over its long history.

theshining2 theshining3

The hotel was built on Indian burial grounds and has the motives throughout the hotel in the carpeting and decor. The scale of the hotel and living there alone is well captured by the scenes of Danny riding his Big Wheel through the corridors of the hotel and the scene of Jack, the husband, throwing a ball against the walls of a massive room as he stirs in boredom and writer’s block.


Besides the slow build-up in terror, mystery and later horror, Kubrick was able to take a popular novel based on a possessed hotel to a blend of natural break-down of human nature in isolation with the illusion of a possessed hotel, which drives a fine line begging the question: was Jack delusional or possessed by the Shining? Of course, I have painted a work dedicated to The Shining, “Overlook Hotel, Maui”.


OA: What music are you currently listening to and why?

SS: Right now I generally listen to electronic music streamed on My brother introduced me to the station and I actively use it to paint my work with. I originally got into House dance music in Chicago and later Trance as a bartender in Germany. Another genre of music to paint by is very aggressive rock or death metal even to stir the rawest emotions into the passion of the painting.

tool nin2

Just the other day I was painting to Tool, which I hadn’t really heard before while painting. In my youth and even now, one of my favorite bands is Nine Inch Nails. I grew up with my mother always crying over lost jobs with her flawed personality driving her failure, so this type of depressing, suicidal music really pierces my soul and allows me to purge those memories. The weird thing is after listening to NIN, I feel happy inside from releasing the inner demons to rage awhile. I think I’ll play some today while I paint.

OA: Which living artists do you most admire and why?

fairey fairey2 fairey3

SS: I would say Shephard Fairey. He took his art to the streets to get the visual feedback of what worked and didn’t in his work. At the same time, he strove to address the littered landscape of advertising: bill boards, subway ads and bus stop ads to subvert them to his OBEY campaign, which exposes the hypocrisy of police chasing down graffiti artists while protecting advertisers to shout their message to the masses endless with corporate money. Another interesting angle was how he repackaged various politicians into new ways to expose or even make fun of the propaganda, which is basically repeated, unchallenged art with message. I do have mixed emotions of using dictators such as Saddam Hussein, Stalin or Lenin in posters with a neutral message. I lived in Communist Poland a year and saw how an autocratic regime tarnishes the masses, belittles opponents and smashes political opposition with jail, prison or even death. I don’t believe these types of leaders should be positioned neutrally. In my work, I actively pursue revolution against these types of regimes like in China and Russia currently.

picasso1 picasso3 picasso4 picasso5

OA: Which deceased artist do you most admire and why?

SS: This is a tough choice. So much great art and artists. One that sticks in my mind was Picasso. He evolved over several painting styles: blue period, pink period, cubism and later social realism. This is the essence of an artist, to continually explore and push the limits of art. He even painted a massive painting dedicated to the fascist bombing of Guernica during Spain’s Civil War, which precluded the coming atrocities in WWII. He kept this painting out of Spain until Franco, the dictator, died, which was a very, very long time. In essence, he outlived Franco barely to keep this treasure out of Spain until democracy returned. Of course the reality is Franco would likely have destroyed the work, since he used Nazi airpower to win the Civil War. Like any artist, he was flawed in his relationships and I believe he went astray painting the socialist realism after cubism. This paralleled the art world in closed Communist countries, which I find disturbing with the tinge of the gulag attached to this propaganda style. Another reason to respect Picasso and why he was so famous, he lived in the great art capitals of his day: Paris and later New York City. One of the reasons artists become famous is simply by being where the action is. He showed complete devotion to his talent with all else secondary, he lived for the art world. People reward this.


OA: Which exhibition that you have visited made the greatest impact on you and why?

SS: Easy. The Guernica. Picasso painted this right after the bombing of civilians in Guernica, the first civilian air raid, capturing the cruelty of modern air warfare in a massive scene all in black and white. It was kept out of Spain until the fall of Franco, which gets to the heart of being Spanish — respect and honor to the end. The painting was right in his maximum successful period of cubism, so is beautiful in this light as well and capturing the horror of war. I have seen it several times while studying art as a student living in Spain. This is the essence of painting, to capture the audience, expose injustice, have an amazing story and even outside story of keeping it out of the country until Franco’s death.

franco1 franco2

You can literally feel the arch of the Civil War in this painting and the paintings life outside of Spain as an emigre as well. Art should change the world and in many cases does not, this work did.

OA: What is the question you get asked most frequently about your work and how do you answer it?

SS: Usually it is about the process as I work in three different styles: Free Form Abstract, Architectural Abstraction and Political Pop. One version of my abstract I use pure metal tools on wood panels similar to how Gehard Richter paints his massive abstracts.


I have a passion of finding where the paint will take me and combine. The second style is Architectural Abstraction. This style developed from my more angular style I first used into a highly structured 30 degree, 60 degree and 90 degree style with various planes of color fighting for dominion in the work.


My third style is Political Pop, currently my favorite to explain, since each work has a distinct message and story. These works deal with political injustice, crimes against humanity and an artist’s struggle to change the world through art.


One of my largest works “303 Signatures” deals with the rise of Charter 08 in China and the imprisonment of Liu Xiaobo for merely crafting this declaration of rights. It has all the 17 points of the petition to the government covering political freedom, freedom of expression, religion, etc. all in 76 hanzi, which alludes to 1776, the year of US declaration of independence. Along the frame I have most of the 303 signatures, about 900 hanzi characters. Keep in mind I speak no Mandarin, so this was really challenging work. Now over 13,000 people have signed it and the writer won the Nobel Peace Prize and was rewarded with 11 years in prison. I plan to keep this work out of China until the fall of Communism there.

OA: What / who inspired you to be an artist?

SS: There are many people. My mother took me to several art classes in my youth and was an excellent musician in her own right. In college, I was inspired to be taught under the late Tom Thomas. He would paint his own contemporary art right in class, so we could immediately leap frog to the latest style, which I later did. He organized great art competitions for the students with outside competition, so we learned the world of art very intimately. Additionally, his model would paint in class as well, so we saw her erotic paintings, which was one of the best learning experiences.


Another inspiration would be Van Gough, since he persevered despite his mental lunacy that drove away his own customers, artist friends and gallerists. This is amazing to have lived so passionately in your art despite really gaining nothing materially. It is also very foolish not to learn how to communicate, but all artists have some flaws, some larger than others.

FSFA_Logo 72

OA: Can you tell us about where you make your art and what if any the significance of this location is?

SS: Currently, I paint at 4th Street Fine Art in Berkeley. It is an artist studio/gallery, which is kind of unique as most places are either studios or galleries. The advantage here is the ability to learn other artist styles as well as how to market better as a group. Working in a group is crucial for any artist to be able to stay on top of his field, constantly learning and debating the finer points of art making, selling and marketing. The physical space is pretty amazing with windows on 3 sides, so the natural light really pours in, which is very important to understand the richness of the colors and subtlety between shades. Close by is an Indian burial ground under a parking lot. The original building was occupied by Brennans, a tavern that was started back in 1958. They got moved down the block. So we likely have some ghosts like in the Shining.

OA: What do you like most about being an artist?

SS: One of the great pleasures of being an artist is exploring the world of art, painting and meeting people. In my current location, we regularly get to meet people browsing and explain how a work is developing. It is very exciting to get behind the scenes with clients on the process. Another great characteristic, is you are leaving a legacy. If you get to a certain level of fame in your lifetime, your work will literally live for centuries as your work is talked about and discussed. I believe this is very important to impact your world for as long as possible. What better way to live than enrich your descendants long after you have lived your own life?

OA: What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?

SS: I believe being part of the Peace Project is my highest achievement for an artist show. This project was based on the wish raise awareness of the ravages of war on civilians and try to make a difference via art charity. One project helped distribute 10,000 crutches to victims of Sierra Leone’s war. As an art event, my work travelled to 8 major US cities: Oakland, Culver City, Chelsea, Dallas, Beverly Hills, Malibu, Santa Ana and Long Beach. Another great project I worked on was Adult Day Services twice for art donations. They serve the Oakland community of elders in their final years. Another great achievement was my invitation to go to the Art Dubai festival, which unfortunately I turned down due to the expense of flying. My first far show was in Miami, which was the most exciting to see my work up in a gallery so far away in Nina Torres Fine Art.

OA: What are your plans for the coming year?

SS: I likely will continue working with the Peace Project, Adult Day Services and other art charities to expand my reach to the community. So far as an artist, I have done a show in LA, which was my first physical onsite tour of my work. That was fairly exciting meeting new clientele in a completely different art market. It definitely opened my eyes up to the possibility. My goal this year is to be in several galleries outside of the San Francisco area. I also want to have some major art sales as well and gain income from it.     

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