MasterMind 2014 Honorable Mention: Amos

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Miami New Times' Mastermind Awards honors the city's most inspiring creatives. This year, we received more than 100 submissions, which our staff narrowed to an elite group of 30. We'll be profiling those honorable mentions, and eventually the finalists, in the weeks to come. This year's three Mastermind Award winners will be announced February 28 at Artopia, our annual soiree celebrating Miami culture. For tickets and more information, visit the website.

AMOS is a Miami native who launched his graffiti career in 1994. Starting his work on the streets, he eventually moved his graffiti on to freight trains. AMOS has left his mark all over the globe, from Paris and Costa Rica to Brazil and New York City. He's fused his style and experience with a fresh color palette to create a new retro-futuristic collection titled "The American Experiment," chock-full of vibrant patterns and busty duck ladies.

Cultist: So what's with the duck lady?
Amos: She's a party duck. She might have been up for 48 hours partying. Her top is a little disheveled, her nipple pops out; she knows or doesn't know but she doesn't really care, you know? She has bags under her eyes, she smokes her cigarette. Sometimes she's yelling or shaking her fist at people, sometimes she's just pensive and zoned out. It started because of a big fad one or two years ago, I don't know why or how, with girls posing making duck faces. So I just put a bill on a girl and started doing her like that; then doing it kind of drugged out, then starting doing her with a nipple out, stuff like that. It's just fun for me. I started incorporating characters like two years ago. I'd always stuck with just letters. Graffiti's really all about letters, but characters are fun, and they give a whole other dynamic to my art... People love her. She's awesome. She's a party chick.

How did you get into street art?
I got into street art the way most kids get into it I guess, I'd see graffiti on the bus going to school. My grandma lives in Little Havana, and one week there'd be all this writing on a wall outside, a mixture of gang writing and then more graffiti fill-ins and stuff. I just wanted to know how to do it. I wanted to know who did it, and what did it say. I was really interested in finding out more about that culture. Nobody really talked about it. I didn't really know anyone who did it. It was kinda like clues, essentially. I'd see something at my cousin's house that was written on, and I'd ask who did that. Then, I'd ask how he did it. Piece by piece, I'd put things together. I was always attracted to it.

What's the biggest change you've seen in graffiti since you started in 1994?
Without a doubt, the acceptability of other people in this subculture. You can find anybody online through their Instagram and people will reach out to you, whereas before you kinda had to know someone who knew someone to get to someone and figure it out that way. I'll paint something, and then it's on Instagram, then it's basically all over. We used to do what's called "benching," where you'd sit with a camera at a spot really active with trains and wait for hours till something rolls by to take a picture of it. Now, it's online. You take a screenshot, look at it. We can see things instantaneously.

How do you feel about your work being painted over?
I've had my work painted over by the city. I've had my work painted over by business owners. I've had my work painted over by other people. That's why people who document are kings. I have maybe almost a decade of work I don't have pictures of. I just wanted to paint, other people who document write history with what they take pictures of and what they don't. People are more respectful if you've been ragging for a long time. Other graffiti writers, in terms of the street artists, there's no love there at all, they go over anything. And people go over their stuff, too, so I guess it goes both ways. Even the street art people know what it's like to work on something and have it gone over. When you used to do that, it could end in a variety of different ways, including violence. I think everyone's kind of learning slowly but surely.

Tell us about your new collection "The American Experiment."
It's the first time I'm using acrylics, on top of the spray paint and liquid wax and stuff like that I use. So, a lot is done with brush on canvas; all my work has never been done on canvas. I might do one here and there for friends, but really what I do is walls, trains, things like that. But now I've extracted aspects of my graffiti and put it on canvases with a kind of pop-fauvist color pallette... I divided the patterns proportionately, took out the letters; it's just the design. The reaction I get is happiness. It makes everyone feel good. It causes positive attention. It's not controversial. It's not political. It's just fresh, colorful, and fun.

Wanna see more MasterMinds? At Artopia, sponsored by Miracle Mile and Downtown Coral Gables, you can check out work by 2014's ten MasterMind award finalists and watch as the three Mastermind Award winners are announced. And that's just the beginning. Artopia will also include live entertainment by Bottle & Bottega, CircX, and Flamenco Puro; local art by Tesoro Carolina, Trek 6, 8 Bit Lexicon, Hec One Love, Ivan Roque, and Jay Bellicchi; and DJ sets by Main Event Productions, Phaxas, Golden San, Skinny Hendrix, and DJ Supersede. Other sponsors include Rums of Puerto Rico (Official Rum sponsor), Car2Go, El Palacios de los Jugos, Beck's (official beer sponsor), and Vero Water (official water sponsor). Early bird tickets are available through Feb. 2. Visit the official Artopia website.

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