Chris Stain grew up writing Graffiti in Baltimore, MD in the mid 1980’s. Through printmaking in high school he adapted stenciling techniques, which later lead to his work in street stencils and urban contemporary art. Compared at times to the American Social Realist movement of the 1930’s and ‘40’s, Chris’s work echoes his upbringing and the people who helped shape his mental and physical landscape. His work illustrates the struggles of the unrecognized and underrepresented individuals of society. Chris currently teaches art in New York City and is pursuing a BA in Art Education.
Hi Chris, today you selected for MoW 5 of your artworks inspired by music. Can you tell MoW why you chose those music artists ? What was the music behind the artworks ? What inspired you to create them ?
I listen to these artists all the time. I think my mother listened to some of them when I was a child and later in life I picked back up on it. The music and lyrics themselves have deep meaning for me. I grew up in Baltimore in the 70's and 80's. I looked for images that I felt expressed those songs best.
Why is music important to you and your art?
Music seems like a companion to visual art for me. It helps get the feeling out. It's an ingredient in the work like sugar in cake.
If you had to choose between the artworks presented today, which of your artwork would be your favorite ? And why ?
The Baltimore piece says it all for me. Its a perfect example of trying to pretend things are alright by printing "The Greatest City In America" on the benches which was done through out the city some years ago. Give me a break! Since the 80's Baltimore has been on a downward spiral. Don't get me wrong although I live in NYC it's my home and I will always love it but some silly ass benches with slogans will not change the neighborhood.
Can you tell MoW more about the techniques you used. How old is your technique? How did it start? How long does it take you to make an artwork?
I began by taking a photograph or finding a photograph that speaks to me on a personal level. I then cut a stencil of the image using an xacto knife and mylar. I hand color in the image using spray paint or acrylic. It can take about 6 hours start to finish depending on the size and detail. I sometimes work with Rubylith, an old masking film, to create the stencil. It works as a film positive to be used in screen printing. Before computers most screen printing films were made that way by hand. If I want to use the image for a mural I enlarge it with a projector to get my outline on the wall. Murals can take up to a week depending again on size and detail.
Do you have plans on creating new artworks inspired by music ?
None at the moment but it all depends on hearing the right song. Last year Billy Mode and I created a BIG FUN mural based on the album by Miles Davis. Bill did the lettering and I did the portrait of Miles. We both enjoy that album very much and had talked about it for a while. We even played it while we painted that night last June. It was a surreal experience. I felt like I was inside the music.
Do you listen to music when you’re working ? If so, what kind of music ?
All kinds. Jazz. Classical. Punk. Rap. Spoken Word. Soundscapes. Turntablism.
What is the song you liked the most lately? The album ?
"OLE" by Coltrane