From a graffiti kid in the 90’s to gallery owner and just a straight up guy, Sek3 has served the New York Street Art scene for well, most of his life, with no signs of ever slowing down. Recently, the artist landed a major project in Nigeria, where he painted a tribute commissioned by the sons of a musical pioneer and a human rights activist, Fela Kuti, which he says, was an absolute “honor.”
“When I was younger doing graffiti, I was trying as hard as I could to be noticed and accepted, and I still doubt myself sometimes but I learned to just say f*ck it and give it my best shot anyway.”
Now working in more “traditional” forms of art, Sek3 says he will continue to explore ways to collaborate with other artists and “promote the social benefits of Sek3 street art.”
Define some of the “social benefits” of street art. How does your artwork address those?
To be more specific, in that context I’m saying street art interchangeably with the word creativity, and local and involved creativity, which I’ll always support: getting people who would normally not create to be creative. It doesn’t have to be married to the street art scene necessarily. The reason why streets art but even more specifically graffiti is so important to society, and people don’t realize this, is because it builds a community where the main activity has no monetary value. Graffiti was never a money-inspired thing; it was for respect from other people who participated in it. That was the most valuable thing you could gain, and that kept a level of sincerity today’s “street art” loses with cliché poster and stencil artists.
Are there limitations on what we can say with street art?
If we are talking about freedom of speech, I am a hardcore freedom of speech person. I believe you can say whatever you want and offend whom ever you like. I don’t believe that art inherintly needs to be confrontational, but I will support anybody’s right to be confrontational in the name of trying to get to a deeper truth or deeper sense of things. I don’t think aggressive art is always sucssuful in communication, satire or sublties are often more effective, but sometimes you do have to get in people’s faces. Basicilly as long as nudity isn’t extremely sexualized in front of children, I really have trouble seeing the harm in any thought being expressed through art.
Have you ever felt threatened or had doubts about a certain piece?
During my recent trip to Nigeria, I was an outsider, there to show honor to somebody whose mother represents the break of Nigeria from Britain, Fela Kuti, a musician and social activist, who is extremely significant to the local people. I dealt with unbelievable amounts of doubt on how to capture his spirit in front of his people, but I believe in art so much more than myself that I just surrendered and gave it everything I could, if not more.
My friend, Native, said it really well. When people kept interrupting his process to ask him questions, he leaned over to this person and he said, “Can’t you see that you and I don’t matter? There is a painting happening.”
Why invest in street art?
Most artists I know are anti-capitalists and don’t believe in money but this is unrealistic for survival reasons, and you have to embrace money to a certain extent. There are people who elevate the cost of paintings, simply because they invest in paintings as they do with stocks. All the artists that don’t like money are still the beneficiaries of that. Investors use the same logic when they invest in art as they do when they invest in gold. If an artist shows Consistant sales increasing in value and seems to be on a path to success, people will want to invest in that. I believe that supporting people to be creative is extremely important. However, there is a certain part of street art that just becomes a marketing money machine, where people gain notoriety by pasting posters of the same few images that have no substance, or they’ll use the same character repeatedly; it’s cute and all, but that’s marketing, not art and I don’t know that it’s important to support those people. Those people should feel the pressure of reality. My point is that there is this current trend in which many marketing “street artist” are watering down the experience for us all. It’s more important to me that people are speaking sincerely. when I see at an artist doing public work , I am not impressed simply because it’s on the street , I remove the street art context and put them in the bigger spectrum of art history.