The following is the first part of an interview I recently did with Featured Artist Kyle Horrocks. He has gone from a somewhat dubious graffiti artist on Long Island whose true talent was only known to those he could trust to a ‘visionary’ talent in California who has begun to gain a following. This is his story.
ANDREW F. CHAPIN. When was the first time you realized you had a talent? What were you doing?
KYLE HORROCKS. Sitting around a fire one night in the woods discussing (or should I say arguing) theories of the mysteries surrounding Oak Island and the said treasure it holds, a very good friend of mine whom I considered and still do to be extremely intelligent said that I was the smartest person he knew ‘cause I know a little about everything. It’s been a boost of confidence that’s pushed me to not only want to learn more but to never stop learning about myself, others, past, present, and where the future could take us as a whole.
AFC. Whom did you dream of becoming as a kid? How has that translated into the present day?
KH. I always told my mom I wanted to be a Ninja Turtle when I grew up; I don’t have the kung fu moves or a shell just yet, but what I do have is many talents. Each Ninja Turtle was named after a Renaissance man and a renaissance man is someone of many skills. I think it was Einstein who said to be a man of value not success.
AFC. When did you first realize you wanted to pursue art as an occupation?
KH. I’m not sure if it was a want or a need. After high school, I went straight into the work force doing whatever I could, and the money was great but the toll it was taking on my body was another story. I loved being outdoors and doing something physical but seeing the older guys on the crew with back and shoulder problems made me look towards my future as a surfer. Then, the realization hit me that I can’t do this forever and its time to maybe try the whole college thing. I thought of what I knew best other than manual labor and that was graffiti, everything fell into place from there.
AFC. How did others early on view your interest in art?
KH.No one really knew besides my close friends. I kept my identity as a graffiti writer on the lock [so I didn’t] get caught. I learned at a young age that most people can’t keep they’re mouths shut, and most people love to talk about things that don’t concern them… Strange, isn’t it?
When I finally told my parents what I was up to, I started to feel more comfortable showing them pictures of my stuff and explaining to them the process and methods I use. Who knows what they thought at first, but they can clearly see now what its turned in to and that I was dead serious every step of the way.
AFC. How did you hone your craft?
KH. Practice, of course, but not getting too worked up over one particular thing. Being a New Yorker has taught me one of the most valuable attributes I hold today, and that’s the ability to say, “Fuck it” – to walk away from something that no longer serves you, to give something time to mature and come back to it when it’s ready, whatever it may be. I work on multiple pieces and projects at once while still attending school; if I get bored or frustrated with something, I simply put it aside and work on something else or learn a new craft.
AFC. Where have you gone to school/do you currently go to school? How has it influenced you as an artist?
KH. I studied Graphic Design at Briarcliffe College in Bethpage, New York, where I received my Associates. [During this time,] I ran into some trouble with the law and decided to take a break from school before pursuing my Bachelors; this was one of the greatest things that could have happened to me.
I was painting one night along a trackside wall when Nask, Skez, and myself got raided by the cops. We hopped fences dodged trains and of course got away but at the expense of all our paint and our now shredded and bloody clothes and limbs from two barbed wire fences we scaled like Olympic athletes. I realized that if I kept painting this way that the repercussions of getting caught for graffiti while on probation were severe and that I need[ed] to channel this into doing more large-scale, legal pieces rather than causing destruction and catching wreck with [my] friends.
I currently attend The Art Institute in San Diego and have gotten my education back on track since taking a short break.
AFC. Who and/or what has influenced you as an artist?
KH. My influences come from creations and experiences. When I see something then understand how it came to be, it’s like a revelation or a sudden moment of realization. For example, to watch flowing water erode a river bank with chunks of sediment falling into the water and being carried away and out to sea helped me understand erosion over time to the point where I can view a landscape and understand not only how it came to be but what the laws of nature have in store for its future. It’s quite humbling and makes you feel exactly how you should – small yet a part of something big. This can only be done through experience.
AFC. Since we grew up together in Bellmore, how would you saying growing up on Long Island has influenced you?
KH. Well, being where I’m at now in my life living on the west coast, I realized how lucky we had it and how diversified Long Island is – from the various different ethnic groups and even different sports that some areas of the country just simply don’t find interesting like lacrosse or hockey. If there’s anything Long Island has taught me, it’s that it’s best to be different.
Check back on THURSDAY for Part II of my interview with Featured Artist Kyle Horrocks.