An Interview With B.D. White
1. Your background of merging street art with contemporary is rather intriguing – can you give us some more insight into your idea of “mindful vandalism” and what this means for your practice?
I came up with the term “mindful vandalism” to describe the city beautification project that I had taken upon myself to do between the hours of 1-4am back in 2013-14. I just thought it was a funny play on words because what I was doing at night was the complete opposite of mindless as I spent many hours, days and weeks planning and making the pieces that I would paint or install in the street. From a technical standpoint though, it was still vandalism as I never was able to procure official permission from the city. A prime example about how it’s always easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission in my opinion.
2. Your stencil process is quite laborious (as you’ve noted sometimes even between using 60-100 stencils for one piece) – how did you first discover stencils and begin utilizing them for your practice?
I became interested in using stencils as a medium after moving to NYC in 2009, noticing all the street art, and seeing the Banksy documentary “Exit Through The Gift Shop”. I was always aware of graffiti but I didn’t realize people were putting actual paintings and artwork in the street. I got really excited because it was a chance to have an actual audience that wasn’t just family and friends. Those first initial street piece stencils were very simple, but when I transitioned to studio work I wanted to create much more intricate paintings. By nature, stencils are supposed to be easy and make painting easy, but easy things bore me. If anyone can do it then what’s the point of me doing it? With that in mind, I set out to make stencils challenging. I decided to see how far I could push the medium and now the stencil works I make utilize well over 200 stencils per painting and are a sea of non stop frustrations and problem solving.
3. Your work is fleeting and has a very ephemeral aura to it – can you tell us more about your usage of women in suspension / astronauts as themes?
I like using astronauts and floating women as subjects because it leaves the piece open for interpretation from the viewer. I want my work to be able to connect with the viewer on an emotional level the same way music does. When you listen to lyrics to a song you love everyone always immediately appropriates the words to how they relate to experiences in their own life. You hardly ever sit and wonder what these lyrics meant to the musician who wrote them. And that’s the exact response I want my paintings to evoke. I want the viewer to see the painting for how it relates and speaks to experiences in their life that they have gone through. The astronauts and floating women are ambiguous enough to mean so many things; loneliness, solitude, exploration, triumph, love, loss, longing, etc. The painting might mean a specific thing to me, but it could mean something completely different to a viewer.
4. Some have said that the women in your work represent “love lost” and a sense of “longing” do you find this outside observation to be true? Or do you find a different meaning within your work?
I want the meaning of my works to be open for interpretation from the viewer so that they can relate it to their own life experiences. That being said though, yes the paintings do have a specific meaning to me when I make them and that statement is definitely true. To me, everything I paint is about one person. The astronaut is me and my emotions and the floating women represent the person I love. A lot of the paintings seem to be about longing and love lost because the relationship I had with her ended and I poured all my heartbreak into all those pieces. It all worked out in the end though because now we’re engaged.
5. What is one thing we can always find in your studio?
Me. These paintings take so long to make, it feels like all I ever do is work.