You submitted nominations for awards given to the Valley's emerging creatives, and the results are in. Introducing our 2014 Big Brain finalists.
For a guy who craves anonymity, El Peezo certainly is on a lot of street corners.
And walls of abandoned buildings, as well as occupied ones. And in parking lots and alongside bustling restaurants.
Since first surfacing on the street art scene by appearing on the concrete of downtown Phoenix, El Peezo has brought an increasingly popular and accessible form of public art to the Valley: wheat paste.
See also: "Urban Legend" Award Celebrates Creative Phoenix Pioneers in Honor of New Times' Fifth Big Brain Awards
Video by Evie Carpenter.
The urban art form was first used by guerilla artists and protestors to adhere posters and fliers and has since been re-appropriated by artists like Nether and Banksy. The mixture, which consists of simply wheat flour or starch and water, doesn't permanently deface anything but also struggles to withstand the elements -- which is why many of El Peezo's paste people are missing half a head or have shredded feet.
He seems to emulate Banksy when it comes to more than just his chosen medium. Throughout his career, the hyper-popular and now commercial, yet still controversial, artist has chosen to remain anonymous -- which, of course, has only made him infamous. Phoenix's El Peezo, it would seem, hopes for a similar approach, explicitly and repeatedly declining to be interviewed by anyone.
"I began my work as El Peezo in hopes of bringing fun and lightheartedness to my life and my environment through satirical street art," he writes in an e-mail to New Times.
"The content and placement of my work is done exclusively without permission. To preserve the essence of El Peezo, I choose to remain anonymous in the Phoenix art scene. Continuing to maintain complete anonymity is of utmost importance."
Because his work depicts popular characters, like E.T. and Alf, the public already has a relationship with them and tends to seek them out. It's not uncommon to see a driver pause for a photograph, while Instagram searches unearth an array of portraits posed with a piece.
When shared on social media, either on his account or others, his work becomes like a real-life Where's Waldo? book. (El Peezo actually created a Waldo wheat paste last year. It has since disappeared.) Many are hidden off side streets deep downtown, and everyone wants to know where, though they tend to tear and tatter or are painted over before long.
Arguably his most noted pieces, Jack Skellington from Nightmare Before Christmas and a scene from Where the Wild Things Are, are also his most publicly accessible. The former adorns the western wall of Phoenix Public Market Café, while the latter can be seen directly from Seventh Street, since the major commuter street passes by Palabra hair and art collective, which plays host to the piece and of which he is a member.
Palabra's owner, Jorge Torres, learned of El Peezo when he saw the artist's work on his building. El Peezo has since joined the collective, but Torres has never met him -- they communicate via e-mail.
"[His work] is cool," Torres says. "It's widespread and open to all demographics. The fact that he's branched out and accessible to everyone, that's pretty legit."
Artopia will take place from 8 p.m. to midnight Friday, April 25, at Bentley Projects in downtown Phoenix. Tickets are $25 in advance and $35 the day of the event. See more at www.phoenixnewtimes.com/bigbrainawards.
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