BRAND NEW MURAL ALERT!!
Here stands Dallas-based artist Michael Savoie in front of his very nearly completed mural on Elgin and Smith St. I was lucky enough to catch Savoie at work and get a little insight into his work before it has even been officially unveiled - lucky me. Shout out to him for being very gracious and accommodating in spite of being accosted by a flustered British girl fresh out of the gym and demanding that he pose for photos.
So a little background on this piece. Savoie was one of three winners of the 2014 Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series competition, which for the past 5 years has partnered with media mogul Russell Simmons and his RUSH Philanthropic Arts Foundation to find the best mural artists nationally. The annual contest sees thousands of artists compete for a chance to exhibit at the Scope Miami Beach Art Show, and the top three exhibitors are selected to participate in the Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series Mural Project , where the artists have the chance to create a mural in their hometown. Just when you thought Gin couldn't get any cooler right? This year's winners were Michael Savoie (obviously), San Francisco Artist Kristine Mays, and New Orleans Artist Ti-Rock Moore, whose contribution is a particularly poignant dedication to the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
Savoie's work has been featured on the hit show Empire and (somewhat randomly) the Real Housewives of Atlanta. He has a BFA from Burlington College in Vermont, but actually taught himself to paint after moving from San Francisco back to his native Texas. Savoie's background in graphic design, illustration, and particularly fashion are all clearly referenced throughout his works, and this piece is no exception. Surprisingly though, this is his first ever mural. In fact, according to the man himself, his largest works up to this point have been 66"x66" acrylic on canvases.
For the background Savoie swapped his palette knife for a paint roller, staying true to the vivid style of portraiture he calls "abstract realism" while blowing up his work to epic proportions. During our brief chat, Savoie said that he projected the portrait onto the wall rather than using stencil, and used spray paint to create the smooth depth of the figure, finishing it all up with a hefty amount of freehand detail. Did I mention that even with a day of rain preventing him from working, this mural was created in just one week??
Savoie's training as a photographer is evident in his striking handling of portraiture, while abstract backgrounds and a preoccupation with color make his work aesthetically appealing and just fun to look at in general. The trademark blindfold, a recurring motif throughout the artist's recent Blind Ambition series, is also present here, creating cohesion between his fine art and his mural work. It's an intriguing device that I think helps to separate his works from the standard pop art portraits that focus exclusively on physical beauty and pop culture figures. Savoie covers the eyes because he wants to remove the “who” and leave the “why”.
In his bio, Savoie writes that "The camera connects [him] with people, bringing [him] out of the studio and into nature, while the canvas isolates [him] in [his] own thoughts". Reading this while researching and writing about a mural that is inextricably connected to the outdoors, the public, and the urban landscape of Houston gives me an interesting thought. Savoie is a fine artist, thus this piece, regardless of the low brow connotations of Street Art, is fine art. Now fine art created in a studio, as Savoie suggests, can be kind of insular, whereas any type of art created outdoors has a more open quality- it reacts to its surroundings just as the people around it react to it. I made a point last week about Street Art and fine art being separated by a chasm of snobbery, and I think that organizations like RUSH, which bring fine artists to the streets and street artists to the gallery are making this gap a little narrower every day. I don't have much a point here, mind, but it's food for thought.
The mural's official unveiling will take place at its location (duh) on May 28th at 6pm. So go meet this lovely chap for yourself!
British-born arts blogger living in Houston, Tx. A mixture of Street Art, Fine Art, Installation, and anything weird and wonderful. Follow me if that sounds like your cup of tea.