Interview: Mike Fearo (DCV, UTI)

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with world-renowned artist Fear. We spent our time chatting about what he has been up to recently, and what we can expect to see from him in the coming future.

the Crossing: Starting off with the basics, what is your name?

Fear: Fear–I go by Fear (Fearo, Fear one)

tC: What crews do you represent?
F: I represent DCV, a crew I started in 1988. I’m also down with UTI and BLA.

tC: And where are you from?
F: I come out of Los Angeles, California. Bellflower to be exact.

tC: Cool. So how long have you been painting?
F: I started painting in 1983, I was painting a kind of street graffiti. It wasn’t what you see today. In 1984 is when I became FEAR ONE.

tC: What were you writing before, and what was the deciding factor in making the change?
F: Well, before that I was writing STUNT. I was representing my neighborhood in Bellflower. I used to roll with ESP (East Side Paramount), but back then it was gang stuff. Then later when the hip-hop scene came about, that’s when I started to get into that side of things. I’ve always been an artist, but later in ’88 is when I started piecing and doing more professional work. Before that it was just tagging. Before FEAR even, I was writing GLIDE. That was my breakdancing name.

tC: Did that name suit you?
F: Oh yeah it did, I had the dopest glide in Bellflower.

tC: Spending a lot of my younger days in Orange County, I was able to see a lot of your work.
F: Well actually, I moved to Bellflower in ’89. I lived around there off and on until maybe ’94.

tC: Moved a little west with the family, huh?
F: Yeah, when I had my son, we moved to Long Beach. We went back and forth.

F: Where are you now?
tC: I’m actually in Ventura finishing school, but I can’t wait to get back down here to Los Angeles.
F: The only things I know about Ventura is back in ’92, I went out there and got a bunch of spray paint. They had a whole lot of colors that were discontinued.

tC: Some of those old purples?

F: No, the greens even. There was a store out there that had boxes of them.

tC: So you said you’ve been writing FEAR since ’84, nowadays with the family and all have you been keeping things a little more legal?
F: Yeah, a little. I still do some street stuff, but my face is out there now. I’m the owner of a company now, GIRLS GONE GRAFF. We are putting on a lot of events, I’m curating a lot of shows. Things like that are generating some interviews, such as this one, videos, things of that nature. So my face has been put out there, but you know me, sometimes I still make a trip to the freight yards.

tC: What kind of things have you been doing in studio recently, and what have you brought from the street that flows into your work in the studio?
F: In terms of style, I’ve kept it all. I don’t do too much lettering on canvas, I’ve been doing more abstract. Then again, my lettering is rather abstract in a way, so my style all together has blended well. I’ve been more focused on the shapes and forms used within my letters. Same kind of color schemes, mostly the same medium. I have dabbled in others, but I still prefer aerosol.

tC: So primarily large scale?

F: Mostly, I have done some smaller things using brushwork. Ever since I started the body painting, I’ve been doing more brushwork. That’s a whole new thing to me. I’m just really into shapes. When I was young, I used to draw portraits of the famous people I looked up to. I found this process very tedious; I just simply don’t have the patience for that kind of thing. Now I like to just slap down colors. If I can’t work fast, then to me it’s not even worth it.

tC: So in that respect, you could say each canvas is like a snapshot of where you are in life. Where your mind is, or your position in life.

F: Yeah, I think my art has always been like that. Even back when I was doing a lot of work in the street, I would rarely bring sketches with me. I found it very difficult to concentrate on the original design. When you sit down and do a sketch, you’re in a completely different mindset than when you’re out painting it.

tC: So you feel like sometimes, working that way can cause the loss of proper translation?
F: Exactly.

tC: You had mentioned something about Girls Gone Graff, you want to tell us a little about that?
F: Sure. It started because I was doing body painting for a company called Shrimp right around the time body painting started getting popular. I met a girl at a show, and took down her number. She was actually at the time on tour for the My Little Ponies movie, she was an actress as well as a model. When she came back from the tour, we started dating and when I met her mother, I found out she was a very successful businesswoman.

She had started companies ranging from Limousine service to a P.I. firm. She was very business-minded, as I am, and she approached me one day saying, “You know all the best artists in L.A., and I know all the best models. Why don’t we put that together and start something?” It was really her idea, and I was very skeptical at first. I didn’t think it was going to work.

We ended up throwing a big show at Nomad Gallery in L.A. called Body Language. We ended up getting a huge response, about 700 or 800 people showed up to the first one. From then on, we had a lot of requests to do more shows. This kind of morphed from an entertainment company to us curating shows. We still do the body painting from time to time, however.

tC: So with that, do you have anything coming up?

F: Yes, we have a lot planned.

tC: Are they shows your curating?
F: Yeah, we’ve also stepped into the club scene, so we are doing a lot of performance-based stuff. Live music, DJs, things like that. People have really latched on, because we are kind of all encompassing.  You put the things like art and live performance together and it’s really a no-brainer. We have one of our biggest events coming up on August 14th in Costa Mesa, at the Find Gallery. Be sure to check it out.

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