Uncapped: From Kazakhstan to Queens with RESA

Posted on: November 9th, 2016 at 9:27 am by
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The Uncapped graffiti series is back this week with a spotlight on RESA – an extremely talented artist whose story may resonate with A LOT of female artists. To Queens we go.


RESA: Thank you for having me.

BB: Tell us a bit about yourself.

RESA: I was born in Queens and raised in Kazakhstan during my early childhood.  I returned to NYC after five years in Almaty, the capital city of Kazakhstan.  When I was in the third grade, I used to have drawing contests with the boys in my class; we were always drawing Pokemon or Dragon Ball Z characters.  I would always win the drawing contests and actually made a few boys cry because of it. When my mother learned that I was interested in drawing, she signed me up for painting classes and I’ve been making art ever since.

BB: Being that your mom got you art lessons, how does she feel about the artform you have chosen?

RESA: My mother has always been supportive of my art making, but only as a hobby.  When I told her I wanted to go to art school after graduating from LaGuardia High School, she told me I wasn’t talented enough to become a successful artist and that I would be better off taking a different direction.  When I got into college, she wanted me to major in Art History and wanted me to become a professional that works in the high end art market. Like an art dealer or someone who works at Christie’s or Sotheby’s.  I took her advice and was taking that route, but after two years of working as a fine art researcher, my employer (the art collector’s son) fired me because I chose to spend three weeks in Ireland for an art program.

At that point, I began to dabble with graffiti and street art.  It wasn’t until a couple months ago that I started to see monetary success from mural making and painting.  I have been earning so much more money as a freelance artist than I ever did working as a professional in the art industry.  I am so happy that I found a way to earn money for doing something I love.  I always say, “when work is play, I am happy all day.”  Now that I make a comfortable living, I am focusing on my ultimate goal of bringing urban arts programs to kids that can benefit from it. My mother is amazed that I make money from spray-painting and she is immensely proud of me.

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BB: As she should be. Briefly tell us what life was like in Kazakhstan.

RESA: I moved to Kazakhstan because my father started an electronics importing/exporting business there with his uncle.  It is an impoverished country.  We were wealthy compared to the rest of the people living there, but had to move back to NYC after my mother, my sister and I were robbed at knifepoint in our city apartment.  Three masked men stormed into our house, went straight to the kitchen to get knives and stole my mother’s engagement ring and about $1000.  I was five and remember it clear as day; the men separated all of us in different rooms; one of the guys told me that if I didn’t stop crying, he would kill my mother and sister.  I immediately stopped.  I remember hearing my mom scream and try to fight back three men.  I remember the cuts on her face and the gun she was holding after the traumatizing ordeal.  For the last few weeks before we moved back to America, my family and I were escorted by the city police when we needed to go somewhere.  The funny thing is the policemen stole some of our silverware when they were investigating the incident.  Everyone in Kazakhstan was so poor.  It felt good to go back to Queens where I was born.

BB: Holy shit. That must have made an interminable impact on you. Could one say art is your outlet?

RESA: Yes. Before pursuing street art, I was working for a surrealist art collector as a fine art researcher.  I was conducting fine art research, appraising assets and finding buyers and sellers of surrealist art.  As someone who was working for an art collector,  I myself became interested in collecting art, except I was interested in collecting graffiti art.  Since I was young, I was always fascinated by graffiti masterpieces- I never understood how someone could create convoluted structured letters that appeared to jump off the wall.  I started collecting graffiti art in 2015 – the first piece I bought is by Meres One at his Brooklyn Reclaimed show at Low Brow.  As I started attending various street art/graffiti art shows, I convinced myself that street art was something I would be able to create.  I wanted to learn how to spray-paint from graffiti writers. Most of the artwork I create is based on my knowledge of various conspiracy theories.  I specialize in painting portraits and characters.  I am currently working on a bionic series where I transform people and animals into robotic entities.

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BB: How do you feel about fine art now? Still an influence or do you want to break away from that completely?

RESA: Fine art is and always will be a great influence of mine.  I majored in Art History in college, so I am basically an artist/art movement encyclopedia.  I probably could be working at an art museum or gallery if I wanted to.  I am most influenced by Surrealism- an art movement pioneered by great artists like Salvador Dali and Frida Kahlo.  I have been working on a series of paintings that draw inspiration from Dali’s style.  I aim to create artwork that elicits a truly astounded reaction from its audience- just like Dali did.

BB: What made you decide to leave a place where you stood two feet away from something painted by the unparalleled Frida?

The Frida painting I was looking at was inside the an collector’s apartment.  At the time, I was working for the art collector’s son and was just there to discuss art business with the both of them.  My boss at the time let me view the paintings in his father’s house, but it’s not like I would’ve been able to stay there forever even if I wanted to.

The art collector’s name is Daniel Filipacchi.  His son’s name is Craig and he hired me to help him do art research, appraise assets, find buyers, etc. for his father’s paintings.  Daniel Filipacchi’s vast art collection was exhibited at the Guggenheim in 1998 (I think) at an exhibition called “Two Private Eyes.” [Art] Historians claim that he owns the best private collection of surrealist art in the world.

BB: What media were you working with before spray-paint?

RESA: Before learning how to spray-paint, I used every single paint medium you can imagine.  I excel at watercolor and acrylics.  I am decent with oil color.  I think I need another two or three years of practice before I can confidently say that I am good with spray-paint.

As an artist, the way I view life and society is very different from how a regular person may view it.  I truly believe there are unseen forces that manipulate the way our society operates.  Once I starting researching the truth, I fell into a rabbit hole filled with conspiracy theories and occult knowledge.  There are so many fucking books and articles I’ve read that shape the way I see things.  Each conspiracy theory I believe in so perfectly interconnects to another.  A lot of my current work deals with CIA operated mind control programs called MK Ultra and how occult symbolism in popular music videos  subliminally affect one’s subconscious.  That’s why I like to satirize celebrities as Illuminati puppets in some of my artwork.

BB: Let’s skip that conspiracy theory shit for now. That’s a whole ‘nother interview. How do you go about selling your pieces? Getting commissions? 

RESA: I never intended to earn a living from my art; it just kinda happened.  All I wanted to do was paint graffiti murals and share my artistic vision in the form of murals as much as possible.  The more I painted, the more people were interested in hiring me for a job.  About thirty people have asked me for business cards before I actually decided to get them made.  Every time I paint, usually a handful of people approach me about an art project they would like for me to be involved in.  That is how I’ve been getting gigs.  Word of mouth is instrumental in my line of work.  I also work for Graff Tours part-time as another way to make money, just in case commission work gets slow, which I have yet to experience.  Additionally, I work at a community center in the Bronx on Saturdays and teach kids how to paint murals. That way I can learn how to work with children.

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BB: Seeing as how you are a female and while you call yourself a street artist, you are technically a girl in graffiti. Have you read our piece girls in graffiti?  I ask because you mentioned earlier that something happened to you because of your gender and it changed your life. 

RESA: Your piece about girls in graffiti is just so fucking accurate.  I was so surprised how much I relate to all of the women that contributed to the article.  When I decided that I wanted to learn how to spray-paint from graffiti writers, I went to Tuff City for the first time in August 2015 and I painted over an impressive Simpsons graffiti mural by Welin.  This was my first time spray painting a real wall and I painted a really terrible looking piece of the letters RESA.  Boyyy were they mad! LOL

That day, I met the most manipulative piece of shit graffiti writer named…

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