Every now and then I get hit up for an interview. It doesnt happen much but when it does, I take a good effort in answering the questions with enough depth to make it worth reading. I dont think im necessarily a good writer so I take my time to make it sound right. The request for this interview happened so long ago that I actually forget who hit me up for this. All I know is that there hasnt been a follow up in any way... Therefore im gonna release it on my blog as part of today's #tbt. Check it out n' enjoy!
OREE ORIGINOL | THE PEOPLE’S ARTIST
How and when did you discover your love for art?
I have been a creative individual for as long as I could remember. As a child I recall my mom paying me $1 to draw her portraits of Jesus Christ. My young artistic spirit lasted until middle school where I then got active in sports. Right after high school I began to get involved in graffiti art and I became active with my art practice again but it wasn’t until I moved to the Bay Area that I started to exhibit my artwork and take my art up as a career. Growing up, I never had set what I wanted to do in life but in the back of my head I knew I wanted to find success as an artist. My early experiences with art making allowed me to realize how I could use this talent as a means of expression which has always been a struggle for me by other means. When I was young I had a stuttering problem which I remember many times would prevent me from speaking up using my voice to express my thoughts or emotions to other people. Drawing gave me an outlet to have fewer inhibitions thus giving me a sense of confidence knowing this was something I was good at. And that’s how I discovered my love for art.
When did you decide to incorporate the element of social justice into your work? Why is it important for you to do so?
My consciousness in social issues began to develop when I started reading books around the age of 21 when I worked at Imix Bookstore in LA. I was never raised to question much until the combination of my personal experiences and reading did I become aware that a person like myself, as a Xicano growing up in the hood, was at odds in this society and that lots of work needed to be done. I remember my first piece of work that incorporated the element of social justice was a small poster with a drawing of Emiliano Zapata along with a paragraph’s worth of text describing our indigenous rights to this land for so called “illegal aliens” from Mexico or Latin America. I created this piece in response to HR – 4437 which was a bill in 2005 that would enhance the mistreatment of immigrants coming into this country. That was the first experience I had wheat pasting posters in the streets of LA. I also went out to the May Day protests and passed around prints of that same design. In 2012 I got more involved in activism when I began collaborating with Culturestrike.org to develop art projects that promoted a cultural shift in the ways we think about immigration.
As artists we are able to reflect and influence our society. The power of telling stories whether it be in a visual manner like myself or otherwise can be impactful because people can relate to the messages or gain deeper understanding of the issues being expressed. Art is closely linked to love as the most vital aspect of the human experience. When you present art in the context of love, the result is always transformative regardless to any level of resistance.
You focus on illustrating the faces’ of victims of police misconduct and brutality...In your opinion, how do these images make for powerful statements?
The art of portraiture has been one of if not the most common practice in art history especially as a means to tell stories of other people or of one’s self. They say the eyes are the window to the soul, if that’s the case then maybe the face could represent the window panel that frames the window in place. By that I mean that the characteristics and expressions of each face could give further detail on what type of experiences these people had in their lives which provides a visual aide to the conversations this art project attempts to stimulate. The details in each face can tell stories of their racial identities, cultural lifestyle, their age, their gender, physical/mental development, and more information that gets the viewer closer to understanding who these people really where as opposed to the narratives the media tends to portray of innocent black and brown victims of police terrorism.
If you could illustrate or paint justice, would it be in black and white or color? Why?
Whether it be justice or any other theme explored in visual art, it can always be interpreted in infinite ways. As for my project, “Justice For Our Lives”, it’s a portrait series in which the designs are depicted intentionally in the color black and white for a few reasons. The first design of this project was of Oscar Grant but my intention was not to do an art project out of it and was more of a quickie design that id release on social media and that was it. I didn’t have time to add color or too many layers so I kept it simple. As I continued with more portraits, I decided to maintain consistency with the black and white color because the portraits related to the theme of police killings. I also felt like black and white could symbolically represent that these people are also our ancestors. The main reason why these portraits are in black and white is because I offer these designs as templates to allow people to alter the designs more easily and for cost efficient printing. Ive seen these designs incorporated into flyers for demonstrations, teachers facilitating coloring activities with their students, stencils on sidewalks, projections of government buildings, and of course banners, T shirts, and posters at several protests. Unfortunately, the lack of color incorporated in this series of work is what makes reproduction of these designs more accessible to people who need this artwork the most.
Last week I had the pleasure of being featured in the East Bay Express's first "Best Of The EastBay : People Issue" edition for 2016. I was contacted by EBX writer, Sarah Burke, who wanted to do a feature on me for the following issue of the East Bay Express. It wasnt until she explained to me that I realized it was for the "Best Of The East Bay: The People Issue" edition which was unexpected. Every time I do an interview describing the history of my project, I realize so much has happened in regards to my project and also the overall matter of police terrorism on black and brown bodies since I began this work at the beginning of 2014. It amazes me how far and wide these images have been shown around the world starting from the production of every single portrait on my computer. "Justice For Our Live"s is a project that has had minimal financial support but given the accessibility of these designs online has allowed members of the community to freely use these images as a tool to push these conversations and to shape our ideas towards racism and prejudice in the justice system. There are so many other movers and shakers out here in The East Bay that deserve recognition like this but its an honor to be considered "Best Of the East Bay" by EBX. Thank You! Read the article written by Sarah Burke http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/the-peoples-portraitist-oree-originol/Content?oid=4932865
A Key Aspect of This Art Project Is the Way in Which It Can Be Used as Street Art Beyond Its Typical Use During Public Demonstrations. Using the Streets as a Frontier for Disseminating Propaganda Is Critical in a Society That Enforces the Censorship of Content That Challenges the White Power Structure. Our Mainstream Media Has Not and Never Will Depict a Proper Narrative of Marginalized People, Especially Black and Brown Folks. So Along With Sharing These Designs on Social Media, at Demonstrations, in the Classrooms or in Art Galleries, Its Imperative That Our Public Space Also Serves Us as a Means of Sharing Information Allowing Us to Be Aware of the Dangers of Police Terrorism in Our Community.
The Installations Pictured Below Where a an Undertaking Having to Piece Together Each Portrait. I Started Off With Splitting the Design Into Four Within an 8.5x11 Dimension. I Printed Each on Colored Paper Using10 Colors From Hot to Cold Tones. I Had the Prints Cut Into 4 Halves, With Glues I Pieced Them Together Row Buy Row in a Pattern That Reflects a Color Spectrum. The Larger Portraits on Each Side (Luis Go'ngora Pat / Alex Nieto) Where Printed Large Scale to Measure Up to the Colored Arrangement on Each Side and Then Painted in the Portraits. Lastly, Went Out to a Location and Wheat Pasted This Installation on a Black Wall That Wasnt Serving Any Significant Purpose.
The Exact Same Thing Can Be Done With the .pdf Files I Have Available on This Website of Each Individual. Do Me Up Show Me How Creative You Can Get in Your City That Will Force Viewers to Take an Extra Look of Who We Want Justice for and the Movement We Support #blacklivesmatter
Today marks 3 years since the police killing of Tyrone West in Baltimore.
Tyrone West, 44, died after a struggle with Baltimore police officers on July 18, 2013 during a traffic stop. He was profiled and pulled for the usual reasoning of suspicious activity. Based on eye witness accounts he was beaten to death by the officers during a struggle when he resisted arrest. One witness told investigators that police officers pulled West out of his car "by his dreads and started beating him with batons and maced him, he got up and called for help and the cops knocked him over again and beat him to death, then tried to bring him back." Tyrone was killed almost a week after the acquittal of George Zimmerman on July 13 and two years before the killing of Freddie Gray while in custody by Baltimore police. His sister, Tawanda Jones has been holding weekly vigils, West Wednesdays, every week since her brother's killing. Its been 1008 days and there is still no justice for Tyrone West.
This piece was commissioned by Greenpants/Luminous Intervention based in Baltimore including fellow artist/activist Ada Pinkston who have been projecting on city walls, amongst other visuals, images of people whose deaths have inspired the Black Lives Matter movement. Download & SHARE this image at www.justiceforourlives.com/tyronewest
By Michael Johnson
Posted April 26, 2016 11:00 am
Today (Monday at 1 p.m.) I happened along just in time to meet Oree Originol, the artist who created the now iconic, much shared, and much bitten art posters honoring the lives of unarmed black and brown people who have died by way of police violence. He was hanging his work on the “free speech” wall on Valencia Street. Great to meet the man who created these well known artworks. Here is a piece from KALW on the Oakland-based artist.
Click here to read the article http://missionlocal.org/2016/04/oree-originol-on-valencia-street/
By Jonah Owen Lamb on April 17, 2016 1:00 am
Mario Woods. Alex Nieto. Oscar Grant. Michael Brown.
The names go on.
The portraits can be found everywhere: plastered on city walls, printed on T-shirts and in the hands of activists at various meetings and protests. The clean, thick black lines describe each face, turning them into something more than reproductions of the dead.
From Baltimore to the Bayview, effigies of the dead are not unusual at Black Lives Matter protests. But one local man’s images in particular have become commonplace.
Oree Originol began the project Justice for Our Lives in 2014 after he visited an Oscar Grant memorial at the Fruitvale BART station. Grant was fatally shot at the station on Jan. 1, 2009 by a BART police officer who was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
How Oree Originol is pursuing justice for Alex Nieto through his art.
Take This Hammer artist Oree Originol tells YBCA how his #JusticeForOurLives portrait series became a ubiquitous visual symbol and tool in the movement against police violence.
Take This Hammer: Art + Media Activism from the Bay Area is on view now at YBCA:http://ybca.org/take-this-hammer #TakeThisHammer
Tyrone West, 44, died after a struggle with Baltimore police officers on July 18, 2013 during a traffic stop. He was profiled and pulled for the usual reasoning of suspicious activity. Based on eye witness accounts he was beaten to death by the officers during a struggle when he resisted arrest. One witness told investigators that police officers pulled West out of his car "by his dreads and started beating him with batons and maced him, he got up and called for help and the cops knocked him over again and beat him to death, then tried to bring him back." Tyrone was killed almost a week after the acquittal of George Zimmerman on July 13 and two years before the killing of Freddie Gray while in custody by Baltimore police. His sister, Tawanda Jones has been holding weekly vigils, West Wednesdays, every week since her brother's killing. Its been 1008 days and there is still no justice for Tyrone West. This piece was commissioned by Greenpants/Luminous Intervention based in Baltimore including fellow artist/activist Ada Pinkston who have been projecting on city walls, amongst other visuals, images of people whose deaths have inspired the#BlackLivesMatter movement. Download and SHARE this image www.justiceforourlives.com
On March 27, 2015 Loreal Juana Barnell Tsingine, a 23 year old Navajo woman was shot and killed in Arizona by Winslow police officer, Austin Shipley. The deadly incident began when Tsingine allegedly shoplifted from a local Circle K convenience store. When Shipley and another officer attempted to detain her, she resisted arrest and allegedly threatened the officers with scissors. The 1000 pound, five-foot tall mother was fatally shot 5 times by officer Shipley because she "presented a substantial threat" to the 2 officers who where much bigger than her. Eye witnesses of the incident have presented accounts that Tsingine did not threaten the officers with her scissors. Officer Shipley, a 3 - year veteran with the force has received two disciplinary actions in his short career which included inappropriate comments to a woman violating the departments code of conduct and excessive use of his taser. Information has recently surfaced of Shipley possibly being associated with the Oath Keepers/Three Percenters, who are widely known extremist right-wing paramilitary groups that promote and employ violence as a political tactic. On a national level Native American are more likely to be killed by police making up 0.8% of the population yet comprise of 1.9% of police killings and these stories still do not go beyond local outlets. The family and local leaders are coming together to call for an independent investigation of Tsingine's killing and to end racial profiling against Navajo people.
Derrick Gaines was a fifteen year old teenager who was shot and killed by South San Francisco Police officer Joshua Cabillo on June 5, 2012. School had just gotten out for the summer and Derrick and his friend where trying to return home from eating at McDonalds. They first went to the bus station but when no bus came they wandered back towards McDonalds. Officer Cabillo who was in the area spotted the teens and decided to stop them due to "suspicious behavior". When he approached them at an Arco gas station parking lot, Derrick ran away. Cabillo caught up and knocked him to the ground exposing a gun that had fallen to the ground from Derrick's possession. A brief struggle ensued before the officer fired one shot, killing Derrick. The gun was an old collector-type without a firing pin. He had no chance against Officer Joshua Cabillo. Derrick Gaines was an aspiring hip hop artist who needed a bit of tolerance and guidance, not harassment and violence.