If you’ve seen our mayor’s mug spray-painted on a wall in Toronto, chances are it’s the handiwork of local artist SPUD, who’s now fighting back against the City’s war of graffiti with an official gallery show.
Last autumn, local graffiti artist SPUD was reportedly arrested and charged with prowl by night and mischief involving a spraycan. Now, he’s launching a gallery show called Censored at the Don’t Tell Mama Gallery (108 Ossington), featuring artwork that lampoons and satirizes public enemy number one, Mayor Rob Ford. Wearing a Luchador wrestling mask to protect his anonymity, SPUD met with me in a basement in Parkdale to discuss his show, his arrest and his street-art ethos.
How were you feeling when you were arrested?
First of all, I wasn’t arrested. They caught three individuals that might be associated with me, or in my posse—I didn’t hear about it until the next day. I was upset that artists got caught doing what they love to do, it was unfortunate. I don’t want to talk too much about that.
Do you think street artists are persecuted in Toronto?
Oh, for sure. It’s that fine line between “Are you an artist?” or “Are you a vandal?” The fucked-up thing is, I can approach a wall with a paintbrush, and a cup with paint in it, start doing my thing on that wall, and the property owner probably will walk by and go, “Nice!” They won’t even second-guess you. The second you pull out a can of spray-paint, you’re labeled a vandal or a criminal right away. It’s because we’re being ruled by the old generation still.
It’s been reported that more instances of graffiti have increased in the city since Rob Ford’s anti-graffiti task force was implemented.
I think the mayor is a huge provoker and instigator. A lot a great art has been created on the basis of him … and his stupid slogans. He struck a nerve with me because, to be brutally honest, he raised [the] war [on] graffiti and he started [removing] all these people’s pieces, including mine, and turning the property owners against us. Now, they have a bad taste in their mouths ’cause they gotta pay clean-up fees. So I’m gonna retaliate, and put his fat face fucking everywhere.
Do you feel like a scapegoat?
For sure. [City officials] have way more important things to do with their time than to worry about people doing some art on a wall. It’s easy to attack us and get rid of our art than it is to do the real things that need to get done in this city.
Do street artists in Toronto live in fear?
Little bit, for sure. It’s that gut-feeling you get from those fucking pigs who assault people, beat you up, treat you like a murderer or label you as a criminal because you’re doing some art.
Has the arrest affected your drive or will to create more graffiti?
It hasn’t stopped my drive, my plan, or my artwork. If anything, it’s going to create more out of me. You have to come to the show and see the time I’ve invested in the work. It’s going to be a whole different realm of art you’ve never seen before.
Censored launches at the Don’t Tell Mama Gallery (108 Ossington) on March 8 at 7:30 p.m., and will be open to the public for the month of March.