East L.A.-based artist Sand One is only 19 years old, but her star is fast rising, both among eminent street writer colleagues and within established high art circles. (She participated in Art Basel Miami last fall). Her “hugemongous,” coquettish “Sand Girls” are popping up on walls and trucks around Los Angeles, often solicited by the owners of those canvases. The eye-popping cartoon characters are borne of hunger; they represent tough women struggling with poverty, as well as Sand One’s own artistic ambitions as a Latina from the hood. As you’ll read in our interview below, the artist is an ebullient mix of fearless, youthful firebrand and thoughtful, fast-maturing chronicler of a changing L.A. Some of her voluptuous, feathery-lashed strivers appear in the slideshow below, and you can find others here.
Nishat Kurwa: Tell me about where you grew up. Was there street art around you?
Sand One: I am from East Los Angeles, California. It’s a Hispanic area, mainly Mexicans. And we Latinos love crazy colors and art.There is a lot of artistic freedom in the areas where I live so I has definitely been a great place for me to grow as a street artist.
NK: What are the sources of the independent spirit that you draw upon for your art?
SO: Seeing all the magazines, movies, and websites related towards street art motivated me to run buck wild on the streets of L.A and just paint for my own self-satisfaction.Then once I realized others were noticing, that motivated me to paint even more. I’m not alone, the streets have eyes. Ha! Scary. I like being on the outside and driving to different cities, so painting is a great excuse for me to be outdoors.
NK: What was the very first piece you threw up, and how has your art changed since?
SO: My first piece of a character wasn’t even a piece; it was a window painting job at a beauty salon in East L.A, then I couldn’t stop painting cartoons! Then it was newspaper stands, corn carts in all the ghetto hoods, trash cans and now I went crazy psycho traveling to Mexico, Miami, Puerto Rico, Arizona and I even went on a road trip just to paint in San Francisco. The only person that was brave enough to jump in my bucket was my little 17 year old apprentice DGar. I slept in my car,took my moms EBT card, took a box of water and soda. And painted lots of taco trucks in exchange for food. So I was a bum for a week. Things like this keep me sane! There’s no need to be snobby or cocky, not showering for four days will surely give you a wake-up call.
NK: How did you develop your artistic voice and differentiate it from the people you modeled yourself after?
SO: There is rules, status and all these levels to an artist. I thought it was just like, “Let’s paint and have fun.” But now I see all these regulations. I guess I just grew as a person, artist, woman and my mentality has changed, it has opened to a wider thinking, I see more than what the average person that lives next to me even sees. Painting has allowed me to travel, mingle with higher social classes, develop business skills and the image that I present of myself to the masses. I am still myself,occasionally profanity spills out of my lips; but before, I would be dirty and full of paint, I had painting shoes and clothes. Now I have a rule: no paint on myself at all! I paint without getting nothing dirty: clean shoes, clothes, hair. I look like I’m going out on a date! I feel better, before I was soo grimy!
NK: Can you tell us a couple of songs that have been the soundtrack for you when you work?
SO: All this songs make me paint and sing my vocal cords off.
Ambitious by Jay Z
Gettin’ It -Too Short
Get Money-Junior Mafia
Dreams -Fleetwood Mac
I Just Want to Be Your Everything -Andy Gibb
Take it Personal-Gang Starr
NK: Have you been recognized by the art establishment and is that something you feel strongly about one way or another?
SO: Art and graffiti are full of constructive criticism. Daily I am bombarded with various points of views. Thick skin is all you need, it helps a lot when nonconstructive comments come your way. I guess you just have to have a strong mind, man or woman…do what you love to do, don’t let one negative comment shatter your ambition. I love painting,being on the streets and eating street vendors’ junk food! I have showcased next to established artist whom I look up to. This makes me happy, it reassures me that I’m climbing the art world ladder! When my artwork is purchased by collectors or individuals that follow my work, gosh, I go crazy deep inside. A little adrenaline speckle inside of me starts running like crazy inside of my brain!
NK: How has L.A. changed since you were a kid?
SO: Well…elotes and tamales went up. Now they’re smaller and not a dollar anymore. They’re two bucks or $1.50. Nose rings and belly rings got more expensive. Food stamps don’t come in a booklet, now they are given in credit cards. I can’t go to stores and buy clothes with food stamps :) Guys are all taken, they don’t cruise the boulevard. anymore. New bums have filled my streets, the ones I knew are now gone. My mother is aging. My body is changing, and I’m changing. L.A grew for me, there is much more than the 10 blocks I knew only of.