Currently Reading: Street Art’s Endless Frames

Artist Peter Bigelow reflects on $80 eighths and the reverse propaganda playground.


As an artist, muralist, street art vandal and sculptor Peter Bigelow sees his Capitol Hill neighborhood as a gallery.

“I’m pretty hill-locked,” Bigelow explains. “The juiciest areas are gone. Those condos went up. The Proposed Land Use Action signs were our canvas. They are gone. The blocks were the galleries with endless frames. The gallery was always open. No curator had to co-sign it. And when you walk back around this way what you just saw might be gone.”

It is understood that the work is temporary, but the idea that they neighborhood was too is just sinking in for long-time residents. Those that took to the sidewalks in search of fame relished the vacant lots that laid dormant while the financial crisis halted development. Now those condos are filled with transplants and a bit of Seattle is buried under their new foundations.

“I go out in the morning. People are usually encouraging at that hour,” Bigelow says of hanging his work, so to speak. “Construction workers are hella confrontational though. The only time I won’t paste up is when they are around — watching. Cops driving by, that’s cool. One guy stopped and watched then said ‘oh that’s how those get up there.’ This was when the BMW Dealership sign was getting hit like crazy. Since all the buildings went down it’s weak. It was a playground not too long ago. Now you’re lucky if you get a 2 x 2 inch spot to put something up.”

At table

 

This has made stickering and fine art projects more appealing. Stickers are slapped up quick fast and require minimal real estate. Fine art is fine, but Bigelow won’t change his process to get a foothold in fancy showrooms.

“The Post Office is putting out less and less stickers,” he notices. “I do a lot of my pieces on the postal ones because I was taught this is how you get up for free. People used to draw all over them. It was the classic template. If you flipped it and made it different that was respected. We started printing directly on them, doing transfers over the post office info.”

He now works with copper wire bringing form and frenetic motion to stark white walls in the buildings he once bombed. Bigelow made a batch of stickers for PDA to commemorate the concrete canvas he no longer concentrates on. Wheatpastes and murals have less gravity to him now, but art is his chosen medium, and Seattle is his chosen haunt.

Looking closely at his design with the word “KATIE” spelled out and a vintage airline logo, he reveals this is marijuana slang he and his cohorts used for years. To meet Katie was to get high in certain circles, now he has little use for the code but feels compelled to enshrine the nickname for those that know. He places the stickers so they will see, one of the few inside jokes on Capitol Hill where money-making is the message 24-7-365.

“I go after reverse propaganda. I don’t even address weed in my art because it’s not a topic anymore,” Bigelow bestowed a few weeks back. “It’s snappin’ open a six-pack. It’s nothing. The silly shit is gone. I just ask people I know to make sure they have intentions when they smoke. Like ‘why get high?’ Get inspired? Kick-back and be easy? Medicating an injury? Really think about it. Then ask yourself am I trying to solve 5 or 6 problems every time I smoke? If so you’re smoking all day then it has become industrial.”

When asked about the recreational retail shops and if marijuana has become industrial already, Bigelow will only offer:

“An $80 eighth is not an eighth for me.”

Art collage

 


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