Graffiti

Definitely More Of A Wizard: Stories From SLUTO

August 08, 2018

Whether it’s his tag written in Starbucks cups for letters, paintings of people getting blowjobs, or an upside down Monster logo with “woke” written above it, SLUTO is as hilarious as he is mysterious. He weaves loose imagery together on walls that can be simultaneously juvenile, unsettling, and honestly thought-provoking. Before reaching out to him, I probably scrolled through his last 150 pictures on Instagram, and still found myself reacting with a guttural “fuck!!” feeling every time I saw a new piece.

In lieu of answering some stock graffiti inquiries, SLUTO asked if he could have his IG crowd submit some questions they’d want to see answered. Turns out, he called it absolutely right, because the questions are fucking perfect. Rather than hearing yet another graffiti artist’s opinion on REVOK or RETNA, SLUTO lays out his Taco Bell order, his memories of Mexico, and some poignant wisdom that can only be found in the little things. Rather than reinforcing the distance between maker and audience, he gives a glimpse into the mundanity behind what others romanticise, sharing the humor, intellectualism, tragedies, and general personality that we can only assume is what keeps him doing this in the first place. ––Eben Benson

What was your first time painting?
When I was 15 years old I would paint the inside wall of my garage, to practice my hip hop drawings. One night, in fall, my friends and I went out and spray painted the back of an abandoned gas station, green and blue letters, I’m sure they looked terrible.

Boxers or briefs?
I haven’t worn either for over a decade. Underwear is a scam. Just wash your ass. You should be doing that anyways.

You ever paint on LSD?
A few times. It’s really difficult to see at night, around dark trains, while tripping, your arm starts to blend into the car. I guess it’s fun, but it doesn’t look great in the end.

A lot of people think that “trippy “ art is made under the influence of drugs, but it’s correlation, not causation, that so-called creative people use a lot of drugs. The trippiest people are usually sober.

If nothing is still technically something, what came before something?
It’s all about them beans.

How do you pronounce SLUTO?
Choose your own adventure.

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Have you ever found a dead body?
I was with my dad when I was 4 years old and we went to check on a tenant who hadn’t answered his phone in a few days. When we arrived, I remember walking up to the window of a room with the light on and seeing a man lying on the bed, surrounded by coffee mugs. My dad told me to go to the car. Later I found out the man had been dead, and all the coffee mugs were full of human excrement. He had died of diarrhea, and had no family or friends to come check on him.

Dumbest “graff” rule?
Almost all of the rules are important to learn, but only so that one may forget them.

How’s it feel to be a sellout?
I thought there would be more blowjobs and yacht parties.

Are you a wizard or a warrior?
Definitely more of a wizard, I see very little worth fighting for, physically, I would rather conjure, obviously.

Favorite author and where have you found your inspiration for your books?
I like so many authors, anyone who can write well, and if they have a good story to tell, even better. Let’s say Denis Johnson, the flat shadow of Cormac McCarthy. However, I don’t know if anyone has ever written a better book than Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.

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Do you fuck with Volvo 240s?
Take me anywhere, please.

What or who is your greatest aesthetic influence?
I like simple drawings, in the vein of naive art. Like signs hand-painted on bodegas, old Folk Art like Bill Traylor or Clementine Hunter, cross stitching pieces you find in thrift stores, the Pennsylvania Dutch...

My mom asks: What’s for lunch?
35 cent ramen with carrots, onion, arugula, basil oil, rice wine vinegar, and 2 eggs dropped in, cooked until the outside is hard and the inside is almost not liquid.

Favorite color combo?
Red and white.

Closest near-death experience?
Probably random times on trains, almost falling under...once I rode from Minneapolis to Wisconsin, stayed up all night, and at sunrise decided to turn around. I was riding a suicide car,  no floor, and the sun started to come out. I couldn’t keep my eyes open, but there was nowhere to sleep, so I jumped off going 25 or 30 miles an hour. I spent the day in Wisconsin Dells, this strange little tourist town on a river. It was 95 degrees out, and I couldn’t make it to the water. It was all steep cliffs and tourist attractions. I was delirious, due to the lack of sleep, and couldn’t find any cool place to lay down. Eventually I got heat stroke and passed out in the library, which I imagined someone told me was also a hospital for “hot people.” The librarian knew nothing about this. I don’t know if I almost died, but that was a rough day.

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What’s the last bridge you burned?
God, I can’t remember, I’m burning them all the time, usually when I’m tired, drunk, late at night, in a confusing situation, I tell people to go to hell or whatever, and never talk to them again. Unfortunately, the world is very large, and no one really has your back. When you realize this, people become expendable, and it seems like one jackal is as good as the next. I like strangers as much as friends. At least with a stranger, there’s room to imagine that maybe here is a person who won’t let you down, and you won’t get the chance to disappoint them in turn.

Favorite art supplies?
I recently purchased a pack of thin tip crayola kids markers, the 12 pack, and it’s got some great colors: grey, brown, a nice bright orange. I really like how they look on white notebook paper, so thick, so saturated. But last week, I had to ride my bike through the rain, with my notebook in my backpack. It got wet, and the washable marker bled all over the bottoms of the pages.

How were you first introduced to graffiti?
A pretty girl who sat ahead of me in calculus class, she told me all about it.

Do you ever rub Vaseline all over your body and slither around the floor like a slug?
Well I’ve got to try it now.

Wipe from front to back or back to front?
Straight in and out.

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How has music influenced your art?
Sometimes song lyrics sneak into paintings, or I hear a song lyric incorrectly, and then draw an image of what I hear, which eventually leads to some other image or word puzzle in a poem.

In a larger sense, music, especially pop music, is corrosive, disruptive, and sticks its tendrils into your brain, making you dwell on unsatisfying thoughts, daydreams about women you never knew, places you’ll never go- these unachievable desires are some of the nightmare fuel that keeps me scrambling to make more “art,” in order to abate the demons who constantly remind a person of the cup that never fills. “Jolene,” the cover version by Darcy Clay, is a perfect example of this disgusting music, and I wish there was more of it.

How can I add shine without ruining my work?
Everything I said about pop music was a lie, I actually feel nothing, and art is just an exercise, like breathing or shitting. That being said, if you have to ask about the proper amount of shine, there is no work to ruin, only art can be ruined, and if you have any doubts about something so trivial and essential as shine, you’ve got a ways to go until you hit upon any ‘art,’ so just relax and have fun.

Wtf is art and why do we even?
Everything I said about shine isn’t true, art is the mirror so easy to slip into, but difficult to climb out- and meanwhile you’ve only been staring at yourself, haven’t you? Well good, you might as well, because it’s not art until someone tells you it is, and they only way they tell you is by paying you- but if someone’s telling you you’re an artist, and you don’t doubt them at all, then who is the real fool?

Value menu item or # item?
Taco Bell cheesy bean and rice burrito, 99 cents forever, just like my love.

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Are you a full-time artist?
I work. I trim weed and sell Christmas trees and peel shrimp in the back of the house. I live on the cheap, in borrowed clothes that I ruin and can never return, and all so I have more time and money, especially time, but it’s nothing without a few bucks for a sandwich, but time, time to walk and to think about drawing and writing, and to doodle at the kitchen table over coffee, and to paint and scribble notes and poems in notebooks, and all to no end but the actual, final end, near as I can tell.

That being said, I don’t have an artist statement on file, I’ve never applied for a grant or gone on an “artist’s retreat,” or even taken an art class. I don’t care about process or praxis and get confused when I ask about a painting and someone tells me about the person who made it, some shy, befuddled child of a pharmacy executive. Why do I fucking care who made it, and how essential they are, how vibrant a human being, when the actual work is muddled horse shit? New York, San Francisco, Boca Ratón, I’m talking to you!

So to answer your question, no, I’m not an artist in the first place, I’m just a person trying to get by, more and more tired every day, just like you, you billionaire, you slacker, you bum!

Would you rather fart every time you bend over, or have Cheeto fingers the rest of your life?
The farting one, everything’s relative, people would get used to the farts, sometimes they’d play tricks on me, people would see me coming and they’d drop $5 on the ground, just to see me pick it up, and of course I would, the fart would pop out, and we’d all get a laugh, they’d call me the laughing man eventually, not the farting man, and I’d meet a woman who lost the ability to smell in a childhood accident, and she’d wear earplugs around the house and we’d live like that in happy silence, longing for the gaping maw of the grave.

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Do you wear socks with sandals while riding trains?
I’ve given up the sandals mostly, they got so trendy, I don’t ride trains either, that got trendy too, now I sit in my room and think about going outside until it’s time to sleep again.

What are the top 3 things you see wrong with these new graffiti writers?
They seem just as silly as the old ones, only with hot, smooth child skin.

What’s the weirdest surface you’ve ever done bad art on?
When I worked at a restaurant in Alaska I got to decorate the dessert plates with chocolate and vanilla drizzle, so I’d spend time drawing little landscapes and flowers or whatever, the the dessert would come out of the oven, plop down on my drawing and it was gone forever. A very satisfying process.

What happens when you die?
You get to find out what happened when you lived.

Why does WOMBAT gotta be a legend and keep stealing your spots?
I saw WOMBAT at the movie in the park under the Brooklyn Bridge last week. I think the movie was Paris is Burning, but I left before it even started to go ride the ferry with Robert and Piggy.

Anyways, WOMBAT kept walking back and forth over this old woman’s beach towel, getting her grassy little boot prints all over the towel, and you could see the woman was getting really irate, but WOMBAT was either oblivious or pretending to be, that sassy little bitch, so I don’t know just how I feel about her taking all my piecing spots.

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Who is an inspiration to you on the rails?
Artistically, not really anyone. I stopped finding inspiration in graffiti a few years ago for the most part, other than some scribbles by teenagers, their rudimentary drawing methods… I wouldn’t say I’m inspired by the rail workers, but I appreciate them having jobs and showing up to work every day so that I have trains to ride and paint. Thanks guys (and gals!)

On your last trip to Mexico, what things caught your attention?
The tacos, the interesting landscape outside of Mexico City, the train spot we painted where the rail workers would come with a line of cars, and tell the group of waiting kids “okay, we’re gonna take these trains away in 3 hours, so hurry up and paint!”

What’s with your obsession with people missing limbs ?
I think I have a low key amputee fetish. Like, a lot of people I’m attracted to have a nice scar on the face, or some mark that sets them apart. Well, the romantic idea of a missing limb, and also the phantom limb...not just sexually romantic, but in the sense of the story, where did the arm go? How did they adjust? It’s an overtly visual manifestation of the infinite scars we all carry around inside. To call an amputee a metaphor is as insulting to amputees as it is undeniably pleasurable.

Do you wear socks?
When I have to. They’re bad for your feet. Feet need to breathe.

Is it conceptual graffiti or comedy graffiti? Or third eye blind vandalism?
I suppose conceptual comedy vandalism in various portions depending on the day of the week.

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Why not quit graffiti and focus on writing?
My attempts at fiction have proved unsatisfying, and at present, I no longer feel the need to stab away at autobiography, another white book by another white man. Writing, like painting, stems from necessity. I’ve shifted my necessity to paint, for better or for worse.

Are you a pervert?
I don’t really think so. I’m so bland, so boring, I could cry.

Extrañas micheladas? (Do you miss micheladas?) 
I miss so much of Mexico. Micheladas are just the tip of the iceberg.

Why do you use so many mediums and Do you see them all connecting?
I use the mediums at hand, maybe a new one strikes my fancy, mosaics for example, and with each new medium you can say a new thing, or say an old thing in a different way- how do you make a poem in cross stitching, for example, or write a novella in a single acrylic painting? The translation between mediums and from thought to the piece itself, that’s where time stops and you find what you needed, the challenge, or your ability runs up against and shatters upon the hard rock of reality, and maybe it keeps you up at night but probably it helps you sleep.

As far as combining them, I can’t see how it would work for now. Sometimes I wrap my drawings in little poems, but otherwise, the paint, sewing, and mosaics all stay in different houses tending different crops and that’s how I like it.

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Where did you start writing and was it always SLUTO?
My first graffiti name was “no skil” which I would tag by writing “skil” and then crossing it out with a no smoking style circle. That was really where I should have quit, pure stylistic innovation

Who are some graffiti writers that you looked up to when you first started and who are you excited about right now?
Some of the first graffiti I got exposed to was this guy who wrote “OPEC” from my little town. He had maybe 3 tags on the Main Street, and a black-and-white rooftop piece. My friends and I used to drink a lot of Robotussin and just stare at that piece in the hot summer sun. I would draw it in my notebook sometimes. It was like being 13 and hearing punk rock for the first time and thinking “I’m going to dye my hair and burn down the school”, only it wasn’t like that at all. It was more magical, because who was this OPEC fellow?

There’s a lot of little boys and girls out there doing interesting graffiti now, I think. All over the world. Using house paint, cheap paint, letting go of old graffiti rules, or just not bothering to learn any rules in the first place. Graffiti is pretty boring, when you think about it.

Do you think Instagram and the internet have perverted or diluted the core values of graffiti? Has it added anything or made anything better too?
I think graffiti died in 1984 or 1985. Since then it has been post-graffiti, just humping the memory of those golden days. The core values of homophobic bro-cult are kept up by some, but hopefully they will all get hit by train cars and die. The internet is full of colorful pictures, people look at them, say good things, bad things, steal little pieces of style to use in their own silly paintings. I guess it’s fine

What’s one trend in graffiti you see now that gets you hyped and what’s a trend that you wish would end or change?
I’m really pretty bored with graffiti. Art in general. I like old Chinese poetry. If someone starts making graffitis that make me feel like poems from the late T’ang dynasty, I’ll let you know.

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