Conceived and curated by Native Californian Neely Shearer, In Heroes We Trust: Street Artists and Their Heroes features the musings and artworks of 60 international artists on the theme of heroism. After reading the elegantly engaging book — with its foreword by Ron English and preface by Jef Aerosol – I posed a few questions to Neely.
What inspired this book/project?
Why did you choose to focus on street artists?
I had already been working on projects with artists and decided to make my new shop a mash-up of fashion and street art. Street artists have always had my respect, and they quite amuse me. They are a certain type of character – bold, independent, determined. That’s inspiring to me. The walls of my shop have been painted, stenciled and wheat-pasted by street artist friends. I had asked them to do their own personal heroes, keeping their own original style.
What inspired the particular title — In Heroes We Trust— of both the shop and the book?
I came up with it some years ago driving solitary along an ocean road listening to the David Bowie song ‘Heroes’. It really speaks to me at core level – the idea of being a Hero. Not in a grand gesture way, but in terms of living life daily as a Hero to oneself, and ultimately to others. Being human isn’t always easy, but if we can do our best to be the best versions of ourselves and share that with others, perhaps we can all get along better, live fuller.
How did you decide which artists to include?
I had my favorites, of course, and I did a lot of research. I looked for the talent, the message behind the work and the artist’s integrity.
Did this project pose any particular challenges to you?
I had to keep my nose to the wheel to track many of them down, as their contact info wasn’t always easily accessible.
How did the artists respond — as it’s not the usual question posed to them?
Most artists seemed excited about the project right away. In a few cases, an artist had said No at first; however, with more communication between us, we came to understand one another and what this was about. The artists get hit up a lot by various projects and surely it’s not always clear what’s what and who’s who. They need to protect themselves. It was definitely a wonderful learning experience in communication. And I had such a great team at Knock Knock - my editors Jamie Stern and Erin Conley, who were of great support and positivity behind the scenes. They really trusted me to do my thing, and that meant a lot.
Did any artist responses particularly surprise you?
Yes, one in particular. One artist’s manager wrote back quite a strict reply saying that the artist would never do such a book for the benefit of promoting my shop. I explained that this was a real gift for all of us that the publisher had offered us. Basically — a book showcasing them and their work on another, more personal, level. Sure, the book will shine light on what my shop is doing – which is to promote artists. And I am thrilled about that! I’m similar to them in that I’m a one-person show… getting by on what I love to do. Collaborating and supporting one another is really IT. It’s how we move forward, follow our passions and live what we are here to do.
What was the outcome? Did you successfully convince this particular artist’s manager?
Yes! That artist did join the project and is featured in the book.
How has the response been to the book? All of us here who have seen it love it.
From what I’ve seen firsthand, people think it is a beautiful little book of inspiration. And the artists who have seen it have said they are honored to be included with so many other artists whom they admire. For me, that was surely my hope. I wanted to present the best of the best and for all the artists to feel proud of their work in the company of their peers.
Who are some of your personal heroes?
In high school, I kept a photo of Joan Rivers with Boy George on my locker door. I loved that they both caused such controversy by being outrageous. I know Joan got pretty crazy into the insults later in her career. However, she opened up so many doors for women in the entertainment industry and beyond; in her generation women held back, but she didn’t. And Boy George just rocked his style and sexuality like no one. He let freaks be freaks! The two of them were good friends and that was also pretty cool – kind of two people you wouldn’t expect together. I’m interested in these kinds of people who don’t give a f*#k about normality. They break barriers for the rest of us. Today we have Martha Stewart and Snoop together – and I love it. It’s a great example of people connecting beyond age, race, upbringing and past lives.
1. The London Police, All Hail Sir David Bowie. From In Heroes We Trust, published by Knock Knock LLC © 2016
2. Jef Aerosol, The Sitting Kid. From In Heroes We Trust, published by Knock Knock LLC © 2016
3. Pichiavo, Trojan Heroes. From In Heroes We Trust, published by Knock Knock LLC © 2016
4. Hula, Kahu. From In Heroes We Trust, published by Knock Knock LLC © 2016
Interview by Lois Stavsky