Panda Express

The Disposable Hero considers himself not an artist but a visual vigilante who prefers to conceal his identity. With a day job in marketing and sales, he offers commentary on his own livelihood. His panda posters pop up on abandoned buildings and public spaces all over the Valley (you can buy them online at D.H. works out of a makeshift studio space in the master bedroom of his Tempe apartment. The dust-free, organized studio has only a couple of paint splotches on the carpet. Rolls of prints are stashed in the corner, and canvas paintings line the walls and floor. Anime-inspired toys are carefully arranged on his computer desk with framed photos of family members. His lively pet pug (who usually has the run of the place but was kicked out for this interview) matches the enthusiasm and vigor of his owner's artistic endeavors.

It starts. I'd never done anything, gallery-wise, and when I first moved here I wanted to push myself to do one gallery show and then stop. So what I did is I put a portfolio together. I kind of stumbled into Wet Paint in Tempe for a Halloween show, submitted my portfolio, they graciously accepted, and I brought 15 pieces down. In promotion for that, I was sketching out characters that were all Halloween-based and there were little guys in costumes. One of the ones I did was a little guy in a panda costume.

Beggars can be choosers. If I'm going to vandalize something, I want to put at least some effort into it. I'm not just aimlessly hurting things. I always try to intertwine some positive message, and if one person walks by and sees that and smiles, or it changes their day, or they have a different perspective, or they wonder what the hell it is, then it's totally been worth it.

Modesty is a virtue. I think my stuff's crap, and then I show somewhere and I don't think anyone's going to go. And when they show up, I'm always amazed that somebody came and enjoyed it. I do it because I like to do it. So when anybody else grabs onto it, it just blows me away.

It's all a business. When I can charge, it's very minimal and it's at prices that somebody can afford to buy it. I want people to have it — I don't want people to look at it and be, like, "Oh, that would be really cool if it was, like, a quarter of the cost."

Take it back. There's public advertising space that multimillion-dollar companies advertise on, and they inundate us with shit that we don't need to buy all the time. You know — "You're not skinny enough, you're not pretty enough, you need this new truck, go into debt, buy another house, buy another car. Eat, eat, eat all this fucking trash food and drink all this booze and go to the gym" — and they have all these standards on who you're supposed to be. As a parent, how am I supposed to explain that to my daughter? She's amazing the way she is. Its like I'm trying to take back some of that space. Why should I have to see that shit all the time?

Any questions? The point is, question everything around you. Be paranoid, because when you're paranoid — when you're in the act of doing something and you're paranoid — your senses are at their fullest, and you see, you hear, and you realize things that you wouldn't normally.

Check your messages. I'm not going to write "fuck." I'm not going to write "shit" real big somewhere. I'm not going to write my name. Taking that public space and having a message is the key part.

That was close. I'm getting ready to hop back down on the shopping cart to get out and there's a homeless guy looking at porno magazines getting ready to do whatever he's going to do. And I'm standing on the wall and I look over and I've got the hotel guy on the phone, and I got these people upstairs, and I look down and I've got the homeless guy. And then a fight breaks out on the balcony as I'm, like, standing there. There were all these random things happening at the same time, and then I just figured I'd just jump down one side of the wall. I hopped over the opposite side and walked to my car — I figured there was enough going on.

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Lilia Menconi
Contact: Lilia Menconi