So who is Hanksy? Tell us a little bit about yourself
I initially started out taking iconic images from the UK street artist Banksy and combining them with references from Academy Award-winning actor Tom Hanks. I’ve since moved on, utilizing other pop culture figures in my parody street schtick.
"Deep down, however, Hanksy is just a rather bad pun wrapped around an enormous mess of layered wordplay and trivial quips. Hanksy’s like a bad pun burrito. "
Where can we see your work?
I’ve done pieces in Chicago as well as other bustling medium-sized metropolises but I usually stick to the historic facades of New York City’s Lower East Side.
Street art in itself has an incredibly short shelf life so if you happen to catch work before it gets altered or buffed, consider yourself lucky. However, in 2012, thanks to the digital age and kids’ uncanny ability to waste hours away online, my foolish wit lives on forever throughout time-draining social media sites. Thanks be to the Internets!
How did the idea of Hanksy come about?
In one way or another, from the immature Krink scribbles I did as a young crust punk, to the more elaborate stencils I developed later on, I’ve been involved in the street art world for quite a few years. And while I’ve always been a fan of the easy laugh, there was a good stretch in my early twenties where I took myself way too seriously. This was mostly in Chicago. Then, somewhere along the line, I decided to scrap all that solemn and grave bullshit. I dropped out of law school and resolved to make life fun again and to me, puns are fun. They’re uncomplicated and don’t make you think terribly hard. It wasn’t until I moved to New York a while back that I got the urge to dive back into the graffiti deep end.
Why Tom Hanks?
As a child of the ‘80s, I grew up near and dear to my family’s television and its accompanying electronic systems. When I wasn’t conquering Bubble Bobble or pulling my hair out over Ninja Gaiden on the NES, I was being babysat by The Burbs or Joe Versus the Volcano or any number of VHS tapes. To me, Tom Hanks and his various comedic ventures represent a good chunk of my childhood.
You’d be hard pressed to find any new street artist currently active that isn’t influence by this Brit in some small form or another. Plus, his name sounds a hell of a lot like the surname of America’s favorite actor.
Has Tom Hanks contacted you? Has Banksy contacted you?
Neither. Not directly at least. I did an interview a while back and the writer produced a quote from Mr. Hanks himself. Concerning my work, he commented, “I don’t know who Hanksy is, but I enjoy his (her?) comments via the semi-chaos of artistic expression,” which, of course, was pretty surreal. A definite “woah” moment for me. But as far as Banksy goes, I’ve heard through various credible sources that he likes my work and actually encourages it. However, that all might be bullshit. Who knows? I get a big kick out of it though, and I guess that’s all that matters.
Do you consider yourself a graffiti artist?
I’m not exactly sure what I do qualifies me as a graffiti artist. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. The phrase or label means different things to different people. Long-time graff writers would probably spit on me, which is okay, I guess, because everybody needs a villain, and with the amount of success or exposure I’ve gotten since I started this project a little over year ago, I’d probably spit on me too. I take a very light-hearted approach to the whole thing though, and they should as well.
Do you have any interaction with other artists from NYC’s graffiti artist community?
I have a few kindred spirits in the city’s historical graffiti community. Ones that are able to recognize a good joke and appreciate the satirical approach I take. However, I mainly tend to exist on the community’s fringe, mostly by choice, I think. I’m relatively new to NYC’s storied scene and while I’ve certainly encountered a lot of success as of late, there are still quite a few skeptics. I have a lot of room to grow.
Your first show at Krauss Gallery was a huge success and was sold out. Were you surprised by how fast your work has become so popular?
Yes and no. Of course it’s all a bit shocking, that such a simple and pure joke could evoke the variety of responses and following it has. I mean, in its purest form, it’s a gag, but a good chunk of the internet is assembled with stupid pictures of stupid animals and topical pop culture memes. I’ve spent countless hours on Reddit, I know what “the front page of the internet” does and does not find funny, or at the least, I know what I find funny. All I did was put that certain type of funny on the streets.
In your new work, you pay homage to iconic TV stars from the 80′s and 90′s such as Ted Danson, Bill Cosby and Steve Urkel. Care to elaborate?
I have an affinity for every celebrity or public figure I spoof. I love Sam Malone, Family Matters, and the Huxtable family dynamic will always make me laugh. You’ll never see me do a piece on the celebrity suck hole that is Kim Kardashian or her other comparable famous figures. My ideas are delivered via nostalgia, not hand-cam footage featured on E! News.
What’s your next move?
Naturally, I’ll say I have bigger and better things to come, which I think I might have, but for now, I’ll just continue doing my street art spoofs in NYC and hopefully expanding to other cities. I’ve got some frequent flyer miles to burn anyways.
Interview by Ori oren