In today’s politically charged climate there are very few outlets to express opposition, but artists always find a way to fight the power. New York based street artist, Denis Ouch is very big in expressing resistance especially when it comes to protesting gun violence. His views on this particular issue can be seen within his Banana Guns street art series.
In preparation for his upcoming show Liberty for Sale & Banana Guns at the WOW Presents Space and the opening night reception on July 12th from 8pm – 11pm, WOW spoke with Denis for an EXCLUSIVE interview.
Denis and I talked about how he got his start in art, his views, his inspirations and seriously so much more.
Check out the interview below!
(Via Denis’ Instagram)
Javay Frye: What was it like growing up in Russia?
Denis Ouch: I left when I was 18-years-old. Mostly it was a lot of fun for me. It was a lot of change because the Soviet Union was breaking down. I didn’t register much oppression or the regime during my time in Russia. It was fun for me. I lived in the north for most of the time. I was born in St. Petersburg then I moved north. I started doing street at 13 in St. Petersburg, writing words around the city. My childhood was awesome.
JF: How did you get into art?
DO: In St. Petersburg with friends I ran around the city doing graffiti for a summer or two then I stopped to play hockey for three years semi professional. Then I moved to New York. My first friend was Sam Patrick Anderson and he suggested that I move to Williamsburg and his roommates were artists doing silk screens.
I wanted a t-shirt and couldn’t find it anywhere. I asked my roommate, who did silk screens, and he was taking too long so I took upon myself to make the t-shirt. He let me use his studio to make my t-shirts. It’s been about 16/17 years now. That sparked my interest in art.
I never had enough patience to draw things, but then I learned that print is also art after leaning about Andy Warhol. Learning more [about Warhol] made me really want to do it.
JF: What are your inspirations?
DO: Being a vegetarian is definitely one of my inspirations. Pop culture and what is going on in the world politically. Seeing the flaws with human consciousness and the way things are in general and socially. Things that are important to me and for human evolution. I think about something for a while and then it comes to me as a thunderbolt and then I have to create it. It’s usually something funny or satirical.
JF: Is there a specific message behind the various pop culture references you use in your pieces?
DO: Yeah there’s a message behind them. I have the Coca-Cola symbol & statue of liberty that has barb wires wrapped around it. It means freedom is not free, it’s being taken away, it’s somewhere behind a gate.
We see Coca-Cola logos every day, we drink it every day, it’s a normal thing for us to see. I put the statue liberty next to — it is me showing how we see how it’s an every day thing for our freedoms to be taken away from us.
JF: How has your art evolved since you began?
DO: It was only for fun in the beginning, get some spray paint, sneak out in the dark and spray paint a word or something funny. Now it’s important ideas that go through my mind that I incorporate into this fun part. It’s very exciting to paint something — it’s colorful, bright and funny. It’s more serious things brought into fun perspectives.
JF: Has your art always been politically charged?
DO: It has become more politically charged somewhere about the time of Occupy Wall Street. Before then it was more graphically looking or something exciting. Just a little after Occupy Wall Street I started thinking about taking serious matters and putting them into art. It’s been politically charged for about 6-7 years now. As well, my vegetarianism came into the pieces around that time.
JF: Your banana gun series uses a banana in a variety of ways, what does the banana mean to you?
DO: In mass media/movies they are promoting guns and violence so all the images I have they all had guns. Elvis had a gun, the storm troopers had these big ass guns. But I promote bananas and fruits rather than the guns. If it’s a post on Instagram I mention National Riffle Association. It makes it funny, but in a serious manner.
JF: You have a lot of pieces that feature ‘Mom, I’m Gay,’ is that your way of showing your allyship for the LGBTQ community and being a voice for them?
DO: Oh yeah, 100%. It’s from me listening to a Billy Sebastian song. It’s about a guy who at his sister’s wedding he made an announcement saying, “Mom, I’m gay.” Me empathizing with all these people that feel they somehow need to go through this stress in their life, worrying about their parents maybe disowning them. It’s me empathizing with those people.
JF: What do you hope your art will do in our political climate?
DO: Maybe they will see it more often (Mom, I’m gay) and it will be more normal and it will become less of a struggle. Maybe it will break the idea in people’s mind who view it as taboo. It brings up the dialogue. It makes people think — maybe consider things a little differently.
JF: Do you plan on doing any street art in LA?
DO: I am bringing the stencil for the storm trooper with me and plan on putting it in a couple places. Every time I fly somewhere I bring my art with me and try to post it some where.
JF: Where can people find your artwork?
DO: The show in Hollywood on July 12th. I am bringing signature pieces for the Statue Liberty and Banana Guns. Also, you can find me on Instagram at @denisouch.