Art and photos courtesy of Jeremy Novy.
San Francisco based street artist Jeremy Novy is a pioneer in the Queer Street Art movement. His in-your-face street art, which has featured (but is not limited to) drag queens, penises and homosexual imagery has made headlines across the country. Novy funneled that attention into curating an exhibit called “A History of Queer Street Art,” which features some of the world’s most prominent gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgender, and a few straight street artists. The exhibit recently concluded its run at SOMArts in San Francisco and I caught up with the reclusive artist to ask him a few questions.
According2G: How’s the street art scene in San Francisco and how are you treated by other artists in the scene?
Jeremy Novy: I moved to San Francisco specifically for the city’s love and acceptance for street art that is art other than letter graffiti. The city was lacking a stencil artist for a number of years and still has very few. The city sees my talent, yet some artists feel queer street art isn’t tough enough for the streets due to homophobia.
A2G: Who are a few of your influences?
JN: Keith Haring, Divine, Blek LeRat, Andy Warhol, FAILE.
A2G: Tell us a little bit about how “A History Of Queer Street Art” came about.
JN: I had been searching out other queer street artists for the prior 3 years but had never heard of a group street art exhibit dedicated to queers, nor did I see a lot of queer street art shown in mainstream street art books. I wanted to remind the queer community of the great artists in our community that we honor and show a correlation to their street art and the street art of today. The queer community has looked at my art as vandalism for years without seeing the connection to artists that society for the most part has overlooked because of the illegal vandalism it created. So in 2010 I applied for the 13th National Queer Arts Festival grant from the Queer Cultural Center called “Creating Queer Community.” It includes funds through The National Endowment for the Arts, The San Francisco Arts Commission and the San Francisco Foundation.
A2G: What’s the reaction to your art when you observe people walking by it?
JN: They think it’s a photo opportunity. Who knows, maybe it will be their “Wish You Were Here” San Francisco Queer Pride postcard.
A2G: What is the best thing to happen as a result of your art?
JN: I think creating this community of queer street artists. You can find us on a Facebook page called “History of Queer Street Art.” It was the original name for the exhibit but I realized I couldn’t say it was the official history. Without my credibility as a queer street artist I wouldn’t have been able to gain trust in other queer artists to give me the time of day.
A2G: Do you have a message for the haters out there?
JN: Everyone wants to be important but not everyone can be. Find something good inside you to be important for rather than trying to get noticed for defacing street art.
A2G: What are your plans for expansion into other cities?
JN: Yes. Homo Riot will be taking the show to LA next and it probably go to London where Paul Le Chein will take it on there. Each artist in the show was asked to submit a list of galleries that support them and their art in their home city, so I am hoping it can travel to all 8 countries, including 2 new countries from a group of 4 new artists for the LA show.
A2G: Favorite quote?
JN: “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” – Albert Einstein
A2G: Do you think we’ll see equal rights in our lifetime?
JN: I would like to say yes, but with all the issues around gay marriage in current years, I see many road bumps we have to overcome first.
A2G: What’s next for you?
JN: I’m thinking of dedicating more of my time to my street art and commissioned murals. I’ve been having a lot of gallery shows in recent years of my street art but have to spend a lot of time and energy fighting off all the controversy surrounding being labeled as a “queer street artist.” I hope to start a series of queer history murals.
Thanks again to Jeremy Novy for giving us all a sneak peak into his life. You can see Jeremy’s work on the streets of San Francisco. Look out for “A History of Queer Street Art” coming soon to Los Angeles, London, and perhaps a city near you… You can learn more about Jeremy Novy on his official Facebook page.