David Quan, a Brookyn-based artist with Phoenix roots, has been back in the Valley since May. Chances are good you've seen his work under the name Luster Kaboom — including murals on Citywide Studios and the Chocolate Factory, where his Blue Ooze surrounds a mural by Los Angeles-based El Mac, or his illustrations and comic strip for New Times.
Lately, Quan has been busy fixing up his place in the Grand Avenue arts district for possible sale and creating nine artworks commissioned by Valley Metro, which will be used as “selfie stations” for a Saturday, August 22, celebration for the opening of the Central Mesa Extension of the Light Rail — a 3.1-mile stretch along Main Street which runs from between Sycamore and Mesa Drives. During a visit early Thursday morning, August 20, Quan gave a sneak peek at his works in progress.
There was Quan’s rendition of a Light Rail train featuring a quizzical assortment of riders, which stood propped up against a wall near the entrance to his small single-story home that looks like more of an art studio than a living space. Where others might have a couch, he’s got a trunk topped with hand and power tools.
In the room where his mattress sits covered in lime green bedding that conjures images of colors used in his murals, he’s got a pair of selfie stations in progress – one depicting an alien watching a pizza chef throwing dough, the other a woman standing near a pair of superheroes. One will be placed near Queen’s Pizzeria, the other near Gotham City Comics & Coffee.
More than a dozen small cans of paint, mostly “oops cans” mixed for customers who didn’t buy them, lie atop a drop cloth stained with green paint he’d stumbled on while walking through the space the night before.
Selfie stations propped against other walls, which depict Moses in electric guitar mode overlooking the parting waters of the Nile and an old-timey sheriff chasing bandits donning black-and-white prison stripes, will be placed by the Nile Theater (a 1920s movie theater turned music venue) and a Bank of America branch.
He’d yet to build a pirate-theme selfie station that will be placed elsewhere along Main Street in Mesa. Like the others it will be constructed of wood panel, with wooden pieces on the side that allow it to stand upright without being propped up or attached to a wall.
Quan will have a total of nine selfie stations at the event, including two created by repurposing elements from his Luster Kaboom’s FunHouse exhibition up at Scottsdale Civic Center Library during the summer of 2013. But most are being created specifically for this particular downtown Mesa shindig.
He won’t have to haul the stations back home, because they’ll be used for at least one other Light Rail event. Erica Snyder, events manager for the Downtown Mesa Association, says the selfie stations will be part of Valley Metro’s opening celebration for an extension along the 19th Avenue route.
Quan says event organizers hoped he’s set up a table that day, so people would have a chance to meet him. But that’s not really his style. Instead, you may find him hanging around at various selfie stations. However, he’s not really scheduled to be at any particular location at any set time.
Quan isn’t sure at this point on whether or not he’ll actually sell his Phoenix home, which gives him a private place to stay when he bounces in from New York. It’s clear by looking around the place that he’s pretty settled in. But Quan explains that he’s “not big on things,” so it wouldn’t be hard for him to sell the house, and move the rest of his stuff back East – where he lives on the middle floor of a three-story building, and the loft bed he sleeps on sits just inched below what’s sometimes used as a dance floor.
For now, his combined home and studio in Phoenix has a couple of personal touches beyond his paintings in progress. In a tiny transition space between living and sleeping areas, there’s a small portrait of Arizona-based artists Abbey Messmer painted by Colin Chillag.
By the front door there’s a framed, old-fashioned photo of a baby bought just recently ago at a Goodwill Store on Indian School Road. Recently Quan became a dad for the third time, and it turns out that he bought the black-an-white photo on the same day and around the same time his baby Marlow’s mom Dana in Philadelphia was going into labor.
It’s a bit of an eerie coincidence that’s been magnified by his latest reading material — a fat paperback compilation of excerpts from Carl Jung’s writings called Dreams. Until recently, Quan says, he never remembered his dreams. But lately he’s been writing them down, something he says helps him to remember them. “They’re mostly about what’s happening now,” he says — a reference to fatherhood, making decisions about his Phoenix home, and more.
More used books sit stacked atop a stool inside his tiny kitchen – some with titles reflecting themes in his current works in progress. Titles include In Search of Ancient Mysteries by Alan and Sally Landsburg, Man and the State by Jacques Maritain, Barron’s Illustrated Guide to 140 Dog Breeds, Arizona Gardener’s Guide by Mary Irish, and Bill Cosby’s Fatherhood. Well-worn audio equipment, and old mix tapes (actually made with small discs) he enjoys listening to while painting, sit on a nearby shelf.
Talking with Quan, it’s clear he’s infused with a deep sense of nostalgia — but also reflections about what he calls “growing up.” He’s 38 now, and starting to move away from the Luster Kaboom-style work he describes as “silly stuff” conceived during youth.
Unlike the Luster Kaboom selfie stations that are being displayed for the full day on Saturday, August 22 (which includes a 6 to 10 p.m. Main Street Night ), the work he’s creating back home in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn don’t have the characteristic Luster Kaboom vibe.
Instead, he says, they’re “weird abstractions” created using oil paint. It’s a medium he’s been interested in trying for some time, but the cost of oil paint was prohibitive. Quan stumbled onto someone selling oil paints for $10 a pop and decided to run with it, painting these newer works under the name Mark Maxwell ("Markermaxwell" in Instagram).
Look for Quan’s selfie stations along Main Street in Mesa this Saturday, August 22, where event organizers will have copies of a Quan-created treasure hunt-style map showing the location of each one. They're asking people to post their selfies on Facebook using #central mesa and #mydowntownmesa for the chance to win prizes. Find more information on the Downtown Mesa Association website.