Who is SEK? Anonymous Los Angeles street artist SEK makes public appearance for the first time at gallery show.
SEK, a 25-year-old Los Angeles street artist decided to show up to his own gallery show at Jes Navarro’s 50/50 Gallery, revealing his identity to show-goers, who have all been sworn to secrecy. The closing night of his show also marked the closing of the current 5050 York Blvd. location for the gallery. Their new location has yet to be announced. He gave me this interview on the condition that I protected his identity to the public, and here is what he had to say.
Cat Doss: So, how did you get into art?
SEK: I got into art through tagging and graffiti. It’s what I grew up around and it’s what I grew up knowing.
CD: How old were you when you started?
SEK: I started tagging when I was 14, and by 15 or16, I had been introduced to the world of graffiti by a friend of mine in school. After that, I kind of just did research on it on my own.
It was the use of colors and imagining and creating new fonts and letters that got me hooked.
CD: Can you tell me some of your creative influences?
SEK: Well, I was hugely influenced by many of the artists of The Seventh Letter. But back then I only knew them as the graffiti writers of MSK and AWR which is the crew name they were writing under and is to this day. That was in my early years.
From 14 to about early 19 years old, all I was really interested in was graffiti and tagging.
It wasn’t until I was mid-19 years old that my whole life took a massive turn in course and a new chapter started.
CD: Have you ever gotten in trouble for tagging?
SEK: Oh yea, plenty of times. But when your are a kid they just slap you in the hand, take your toys, call your parents and tell you not to do it again.
At least that’s how it seemed every time for me.
SEK: Yea, I had gotten out Friday night. It was pretty odd. I mean, I have been arrested before, but this time the officers arresting me had seen my work around before, so they knew who I was. They just didn’t expect it would be me.
I went out Tuesday night with some friends. We had decided to go out and pain, and we were just about to get on the train back home, but one of the guys that was with me had told me he had to go back to a spot that he had painted at to get some pictures. I did not want to go because the last train home had just arrived and was literally in front of us. As I got to thinking, I decided to join him and walk back to the “scene of the crime,” as I call it.
We got there, and he was taking pictures and I saw a white wall, so the urge to paint it got the better of me. I walked over to the wall and began to write something, and by the time I was done, the cops had turned their lights on and told me to get against the wall.
After searching me and finding two cans in my coat pockets and four cans in my side bag, they took pictures of my hands and the paint and began writing down my info to take me in.
When I told them my alias name, the officers laughed and the officer that was taking my information turned around to his partner and said, “Do you know who this is?! This is that guy SEK! The guy that we just saw down by traction!”
Then he turned to face me and said, “Do you know how long we have been trying to track you down? I told my partner I was gonna catch you someday in the act, and lo and behold I did!”
After that, they joked around for a bit, and a second unit came to pick me up and take me to jail.
CD: How many times have you been arrested?
SEK: I’ve been arrested 3 times prior to that incident.
CD: What was it like in jail?
SEK: It was terrible. I didn’t eat much or sleep much for about 3 and a-half days. I kept trading my food for orange juice and milk. Except breakfast. They gave us some Cheerios. I ate that.
CD: Would you do it again?
SEK: Yea. It really isn’t going to stop me. I mean, I hate staying in County (jail), but it’s not enough to kill my passion and ambition.
CD: You told me at your show that this is the first time you’ve come out publicly to reveal your identity. A lot of street artists go to great pains to conceal themselves to avoid getting in trouble. What made you decide to appear in public?
SEK: Yes it was. And we all do. Some conceal their identity for other reasons but most for just that.
Honestly, I just felt like for this show, it was time for me to grow from being known as just some vandal to an artist. Plus, what I do out in the streets is different from my art I do at home or in galleries. No one has seen paintings of mine just words on walls, doodles on papers or napkins, and pictures on Facebook or Instagram of works I start. This was also a new step and beginning for my life.
Plus, I have done a lot to keep people from guessing who I am. I’ve heard people say that I was an old man. Some said I was girl. I’ve heard people say I was white or Spanish and even a bum.
To see the face of the people that had said some of that stuff was priceless.
CD: What’s next for you? Do you have any cool stuff in the works?
SEK: Yes I do. I have a lot of Ideas for new works at home and in the streets. I’m working at doing a couple of group shows with friends and also might be doing some live art for Fashion Week.
CD: Very cool. Do you have any advice for young artists out there?
SEK: For young artists, I’d have to say, keep your head up and never let anything get in the way of expressing yourself. Radiating your essence is one of the hardest and scariest things to do in the world and not that many people do it.
CD: Awesome! Thank you so much for doing the interview!
Cat Doss is an artist/writer/filmmaker/performer living in the Los Angeles area. She was born in Huntington, West Virginia. A classically trained painter and a winner of multiple awards in various disciplines, Cat refuses to confine herself to one medium preferring to experiment with her work and investigate the workings behind the creative process. Her art can currently be found at Facebook.com/someassemblyrequired