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Featured Artist Interview: XSM

The latest artist to grace the walls here at the shop goes by XSM - we had a chance to catch up with him to gain insight on his work, where it is, and where it's heading. Continue scrolling for the interview and pieces included in his show This Heart Takes, running at the shop through November 4th.

Tell us a little bit about yourself background where are you from?
XSM: I grew up in Dorchester, Massachusetts. I went to a Boston Public School and ate a Rodeo Burger from Burger King for lunch everyday for about two years. My favorite movie is Transformers 3 and I like Coldplay. My big movie crush is Diane Lane in Under the Tuscan Sky. I only drink Italian wine. I like to keep people guessing but I always tell the truth.

How did you get into graffiti?
XSM: I got into graffiti during high school because all my friends were doing it. Kids at school knew that I could draw, so one day a buddy of mine handed me a mop and told me to go tag some stuff. The first thing I tagged might have been a sign in Park Street station. It's crazy because all my friends got kicked out of school pretty fast and stopped writing for the most part around the same time. I was left with the bad habit. Most things in my life aren't premeditated and graffiti is one of those big accidents that stuck. My name, to begin with, was given to me without my intention. It's not like I liked the letters or how cool it sounded. When I was 14 and I asked an older kid who wrote to do me a sketch and he wrote "X-SM" for extra small. I was 4'11" and 80 pounds... It was a funny joke at my expense but I don't remember laughing or being upset. I just thought that it made all the sense in the world.

Does graffiti influence your visual art work? How would you classify your work? Is your work a lifestyle or professionally driven?
XSM: I am an artist by circumstance because things that most people are okay with doing cause me a lot of pain. What I do in that world is fairly indiscernible to what I do as a graffiti artist and vandal. I honestly don't care about what art is or what graffiti isn't, I do things out of necessity - whether that be to make my friends happy or for something weird like my emotional well-being. The one parallel between everything I do is that it's always personal. I care more about why people say something than what they actually say, because art and language is always secondary to meaning. The trick is knowing how to listen or how to talk. 

We love this current body of work you assembled for Bodega can you give us some insight into the creative process?
XSM: They are appropriations of The Simpsons, so they are quite simple as cartoons or as illustrations, but the process is completely chaotic and in the moment. Figuring out an idea for a drawing and finding the faith to commit to it is the hardest part. I have hundreds of scrapped ideas and trashed drawings... When I make things I can stand behind the mood has to be right and there has to be something I need to say. If I try to go by a formula alone I usually reject the outcome. Why I want to do something always has to trump how I'm doing it, otherwise the picture will come out hollow.

We noticed that a lot of your work centers around iconic figures in popular culture. Beyond the obvious reasons what is your rational for picking your subject matter?
XSM: It's mainly the Simpsons that I'm into and its been a lifelong obsession. When I was 9 years old I learned HTML and made a fan website dedicated to Mayor Quimby. I picked him because no one else made a website dedicated to him. Later in high school I started to appreciate the show more because of its satirical value. And then graffiti came along. When I began the drawings for this show a few months ago I adapted the show's major characters into my life situation to satirize the world I came to live in... which has gone multiple ways since I was 9. It was natural and fun for me to take the level of separation between satire and reality in The Simpsons and apply that to my immediate reality. I loved how I could just step back and have a chuckle about the trouble me and my friends were getting into. I honestly haven't watched the show in a while but the main idea still sticks.

Any final thoughts?
XSM: I'm just looking for a better place. Thats all that matters.

Andrew White

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