Painted Prose from Stephen Powers
Remember when you were in high school, twirling your hair, chewing gum and fantasising about that person who will shout you hot chips and love you 4eva? Well forget about love notes in desks and flowers in lockers, this guy will get up in a cherry picker and paint a damn building to declare his love for ya.
‘This guy’ is NYC based artist and sign writer Stephen Powers. Previously known (with grandeur) as the graff writer ESPO (Exterior Surface Painting Outreach), Powers’ name and iconic flat top has been synonymous with the streets of NYC since the early 90’s.
Stepping away from ESPO, Powers made the switch to full time art in 1999, and worked on establishing himself as a sign painter. He now peddles his frank, straightforward and message-driven work under his business ICY Sign Mechanics.
Despite his primary use of words and type, Powers’ work is immensely ‘visual’. He uses elements and ideas, places them next to each other to create a kind of visual poetry. There is always a message, and it’s usually profound or pretty funny. In other words, his work writhes in subtleties, wit and depth beyond the colourful, poppy exterior.
His main medium is enamel on aluminium, for its immediacy, vibrancy and directness. Powers’ main inspiration is life; in all its messy, beautiful glory. Tackling the likes of love, food, beverages, troubles and triumphs of human experience. It’s impossible not to relate to the words Powers spits at us through his walls and signs.
One of our favourite projects of his, harking back to our introduction, is the Love Letter To The City series. Hitting walls on a huge scale from Seattle, Miami, Baltimore, Tokyo and New York, this project involved Powers painting uplifting messages across often crumbling industrial exteriors.
Phrases like “Together Forever” and “Nothing to do, is everything with you” make you wish Stephen Powers was your high school boyfriend. Aw man.