Interview With Artist Flaco Shalom
LiLi: On your bio it reads: thoughts of a humanitarian, philosopher, writer, artist & rebel. Anti-religion, government-hating, extrovert with a kool-aid smile. (laughter)Flaco: (laughs) And there it is! There’s the smile!
LiLi: And there’s the smile! How long ago did you write that? Because I know sometimes we can write our bios and completely forget about it.
Flaco: About a year ago.
LiLi: So that still reigns, true?
LiLi: Yeah, I believe it! So when you call yourself a humanitarian and philosopher, in what aspect?
Flaco: I’m always giving. My brother, his name is Blue, says that’s my gift. I’m a very giving person; people lean on me- literally. And some people see it as people using me but I don’t because I think that’s what we are here for- to be used and to give. I’ve had all sorts of campaigns- some of them I didn’t follow through with but I still did what I felt was right. In ‘08 I had a peace campaign-you tube that- it’s funny and embarrassing but I raised money for awareness to racism and everything. Untitled Bottega just did a breast cancer thing. In October we did the walk and we’re trying to raise money- about two grand for that. I’ve done a lot of things as far as humanitarian stuff is concerned. I’ve been at soup kitchens. I always give to the poor. I love giving to St. Jude’s Hospital. What I have coming up soon is a thing called “Liquor Kills Quicker”. It’s not necessarily just against drunk driving, it’s about the abuse of alcohol in general and how it tears societies and families apart. It’s one of the most addictive things that we have here in the U.S. aside from MSG.
LiLi: (laughs) Aside from MSG! That’s true and very addicting! So, when you say ‘non-religion’, explain that for me.
Flaco: Religion is a doozy. It’s like a systematic belief of what spirituality is. I don’t see how anyone could systematically put something together that they don’t understand. Like, you can’t tell me more about spirituality than the next man can. We all reach a little glass ceiling there because it’s something beyond our knowledge. It’s something that we can’t see, touch, smell, whatever. Like, it’s naked to us- it’s something we can feel. So I don’t think you should have a certain system put together for that or make people feel bad about doing certain things or tell them they’re going to a very bad place if they do ‘this’. You shouldn’t do sadistic things like that.
LiLi: I agree.
Flaco: You know, just do good deeds and always have a good and pure heart. Love!
LiLi: Exactly…everything begins and ends with love. So, would you say that your artwork comes from a spiritual place?
Flaco: Well, yeah…my spirit! (laughs)
LiLi: Of course! (laughs)
Flaco: I’m not a politician, preacher or anything like that. I can’t take the whole world scope and put it into my artwork because I’m not all over the world. I’m just inside of me and how I feel at times. And I can only put down onto my canvas how I feel. Like, I got a painting of Jay-Z right there- I like Jay-z’s music a lot so I painted a picture of Jay-Z. And I show him in this painting like being consumed by all sorts of things. I think of how heavy the crown is and everything that comes with it. Even the things at the bottom trying to bring him down and how he kind of white-washes into existence just because I think the dude’s a legend. I got these other paintings that talk about being consumed with rage or being consumed with fear. Or being consumed with jealousy with that one right there. (points at painting shown below). All my artistry really doesn’t speak on a social standard of everything that’s going on but more-so how I feel about things and how I feel about me, you know?
LiLi: Wow! That’s what’s up! So the Bottega…I know this a space that you use for outreach. What I really like about this spot right here is that it is everything I’m trying to promote with my site. As far as uplifting one another, showing love to those who don’t really have a platform. They can’t make it in Ebony and Jet or they’re not on BET or whatever because they’re local for now, but they have a platform and that’s what I’m trying to give to artists such as yourself. And it’s the same thing here! This is the spot to come during that time of Mixtapes & Pancakes and the artists come out and it is such a homely feeling in here. What inspired you and your business partner to come together for this spot?
Flaco: We’re both creators and what we wanted to do is sort of like what you said but not necessarily to give a platform for the artists but to emancipate the artists. One of our trademark things here is boxes are for the dead- remain untitled. And that is the name of the place, The Untitled Bottega, because you as an artists should just be. You shouldn’t have to change or alter yourself to be something that the public wants you to be. You shouldn’t have to change or alter your artwork so everyone will like it. Just make it the way that you like it and people who like it, will like it and people who don’t like it, don’t. Everyone comes here just to be able to do that.
LiLi: I really, really, really like that! So it’s a monthly thing that you all do?
Flaco: That’s just for Mixtapes & Pancakes, actually that happens every other month. We have another thing called “Untitled Sessions” where its an actual open mic. We just have drinks, not necessarily a whole bunch of food and stuff going on but we have drinks flowing. Everyone comes out and enjoys themselves, hits the open mic and has that same homely feeling…it’s just no pancakes! (laughs)
Flaco: Yeah, it’s something that gets you through until the next Mixtapes & Pancakes or the next art show or whatever. We are always having something new happening in here- we are a very textured place.
LiLi: It is! It’s a lot of different personalities as far as this place right here. It’s not just set for one thing but it can do many, many things.
Flaco: It’s untitled!
LiLi: It’s untitled! Yeah…exactly! As far as artistry period, from painting, writing and spoken word, how long have you been doing it?
Flaco: Second grade. I’ve been drawing since I was in the second grade and writing since forever. At first it was just writing but then I found out about poetry and I started writing in that platform and I’m very well versed in both. It’s not often that you find people who can create in multiple avenues and I’m blessed to be one of those people.
LiLi: That’s what’s up! So have you ever thought about recording or publishing anything?
Flaco: Nah…I mean, as far as I’ll go with publishing, I’m working on a graphic novel right now. It’s a mixture of textured characters and probably as far as I’ll go with publishing. I did a comic book called “Undeathable” and that was fun. The whole thing was just poetry in motion.
LiLi: Ok! Well, I do appreciate you allowing me to take your time and inviting me to The Untitled Bottega! I look forward to coming back and purchasing some artwork as well!
Flaco: Most definitely and thank you for having me!
You can find out about upcoming events at The Untitled Bottega as well as what Flaco has coming up on his website, www.FlacoShalom.com!