Photos courtesy of Oh Captain My Captain.
When you walk through the mean streets of New York, perhaps you’ve seen some glamorous street art on your travels. Faces from an era gone by line the streets, but who do those faces belong to? What do the letters next to the faces mean? OCMC is short for Oh Captain My Captain. As you read on, find out more about OCMC. Oh yeah!
According2G: Tell us about your background. How long have you been doing street art? How did you get started?
Oh Captain My Captain: I’ve been doing street art for a few years now. Basically, most of my free time was spent skateboarding bowls/pools. I had a bad accident falling in a bowl which left me with a brain injury and some lost memory. Doctors told me I couldn’t skate for 6 months, as no one knew if I were to fall how it would affect my memory at that point. I always liked pop art so while I was recouping I started getting more into it. I couldn’t afford to buy it but thought I would just make my own. I loved Warhol and I wound up learning to silkscreen from one of Andy’s silkscreen printers. Then I was off and running…
A2G: Who are your heroes/influences?
OCMC: My hero is my grandmother and always will be. She was pretty incredible and the strongest person I have ever known. My influences come from all sorts of creative areas – film, lots of music, art. David Lynch, Pink Floyd, NIN, Prince, Frank Zappa, Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I always have music on when I am making art. Quite often it is Floyd, NIN or recently Hans Zimmer soundtrack stuff. I was in the studio the other night listening to The Soft Moon who I was recently turned on to and LOVE. Great art making music!
Within art my influences are most definitely Warhol, Marilyn Minter, Basquiat and Miss Bugs. I ADORE Miss Bugs, they are always doing things I find very interesting and quite beautiful. I am also very fond of Futura 2000 and Laura Keeble from the UK. Futura’s abstract stuff is SO beautiful to me, and I am a big admirer of his photography as well. Laura – Look her up [click on link above], she is amazing. She did a piece based around the “For The Love Of God” diamond skull by Damien Hirst that was pretty fantastic.
A2G: Where did the inspiration for Oh Captain My Captain (and the faces) come from?
OCMC: I played in a band for most of the 90’s here in NYC and when it fell apart OCMC was supposed to be the name of my next band, but I never formed another band. The name comes from an old Walt Whitman poem, but I was moved to use it from the film “Dead Poets Society.” Now it’s me.
The faces started simply and selfishly. The main face around that I do is my grandmother. We were extremely close and I miss her terribly, so I started pasting a silkscreen painting I did of her along various streets I pass. Now I could pass her on my way to and from work, etc. It was kind of inspired by something I saw in Battery Park after 9/11. There was a fence near where the movie theater is and it had portrait photos of many of people who were lost there and the words under each said simply “Remember Me.” I never forget that, so I took the thought and made it personal to me.
Once someone you love dies you never really get to see them in a public setting again, but now I do. It was a really great feeling to be able to see her when I was around town, because I even forget where I have put her and so I get surprised all the time. I wanted to be able to give that feeling to some other friends who lost loved ones so I started making silkscreen paintings for some friends as well.
Early on I did a few of Bela Lugosi and Yvonne DeCarlo when I was messing around with how I wanted to stylistically form how I wanted them to look, which I still see some of out there. I get asked now which actress my grandmother was all the time.
A2G: What philosophy/propaganda do you live by?
OCMC: Life is very short, and it really does go by quickly so if there is something you want to do, just do it. Don’t worry about what other people think. I started skateboarding as an adult because I wanted to skate pools… and I did. I started art as an adult now too. If you are doing something because you have a sincere interest or love of it then it is never too late to try it.
A2G: What’s on your Ipod/Netflix/Kindle/Tivo?
OCMC: Well, it seems I always have “Animals,” “The Wall,” or “Dark Side Of The Moon” by Pink Floyd going, always! I love so much music but Pink Floyd is my favorite band. Movies – I tend to mostly dig documentaries. The last couple of movies I really loved were “Let The Right One In” and “Inception.” TV- I don’t get to watch a ton but I am very much an HBO on Sundays person – “True Blood,” etc. I was a big “Six Feet Under” and “The Wire” watcher. Lately I have a thing for “Parenthood” on NBC. No Kindle, I prefer paper.
A2G: Is street art a crime?
OCMC: Well… I personally don’t feel it is anyone’s right to inundate me with corporate advertising within every step I take. You pay for the subway yet once inside your are still hit with ads. I can’t avoid it in public, so why shouldn’t I be able to throw something out there for people to actually maybe enjoy or think about? I would much rather see creative art in public space than another ad trying to sell me something. Some may argue that the advertising is paying to display in the public space. Well, I’m not and my “product” is free.
A2G: What is the coolest thing to happen to you from your art?
OCMC: So many things! Cool things are happening all the time. One of the coolest was receiving an email from Futura 2000. He spotted some of my stuff on the street, found me on the internet and emailed me to tell me how much he enjoyed what I did. He was the first person to do that so it was extra special, but to have someone who I admired so much do that… I was speechless. Really nice guy. I have had a number of people I greatly admire tell me they enjoy what I do which has been very surreal for me. Overall the greatest thing has been just being able to say hello to my grandmother as I walked by her out there.
A2G: Any close calls?
OCMC: Yes, I had a run in with the police recently. I’d rather not discuss that in detail but I was treated well and in my experience I have nothing but respect for the NYPD. They are just doing their job. Although obviously I feel there are far worse things going on in the city besides me putting up some artwork.
A2G: Tell us one of your darkest secrets.
OCMC: I am not really a gamer but I do own an Atari 2600.
A2G: What does the future hold for OCMC?
OCMC: Producing more! I have been doing a series now on canvases I am enjoying, so I plan to do more. I had a collage piece out there for a little while. I definitely want to do some more of those. I enjoy working on those quite a lot. And introducing some more beloved and missed faces back into the streets.
Thanks to OCMC for a great look into his life. I am hoping our faces will meet one day so we can have a Pink Floyd album listening session. Until that day comes, look for Oh Captain My Captain on the streets of New York. You can also follow OCMC on Twitter.