*Joe Iurato dedicated a mural in Elmwood Park to slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin, who was wearing a hoodie.
*Joe Iurato in front of one of his works. http://www.northjersey.com/arts_entertainment/146571455_Artist_s_hooded_figure_has_new_resonance.html?c=y&page=1#sthash.G3QUzuCV.dpuf
".Iurato’s hooded self-portraits have new resonance after Trayvon Martin shooting
Joe Iurato started painting a nameless, faceless hoodie-clad figure long before Trayvon Martin was shot and killed on a street in Sanford, Fla.
Joe Iurato dedicated a mural in Elmwood Park to slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin, who was wearing a hoodie.Joe Iurato in front of one of his works."He's actually a self-portrait," Iurato says of his figure. "Every time I paint him, he's me."
Since that tragedy, though, some people have been relating to Iurato's artwork in a whole new way. And his hoodie character is having something of a moment.
Though Iurato says that any likeness to Martin is "purely coincidental," he did recently shoot a photo of himself in a hoodie, carrying a box of Skittles (which Martin had on him when he died), and posted it on the Internet for anyone to use. And he's heard that people have been printing it out and pasting it in Florida and elsewhere.
Iurato and four other graffiti artists –who go by the street names Snow, Demer, Mr. Mustart and 2Tek –were recently invited to paint a wall on East 54th Street in Elmwood Park, his hometown. And the mural spontaneously became a "dedication" to Martin. Across the top, it said, "Trayvon, we got you."
"My character, as always, wound up on the wall. And, as we were painting this …we realized in the moment that it was something we could use to express our thoughts on what happened," says Iurato, who heard late Thursday that the town may have that mural removed. (He noted that graffiti or street art is "often misinterpreted and controversial to begin with.")
On Friday, Mayor Richard Mola said he had no knowledge of the plan and had not even seen the mural. As of press time, the mural was expected to remain through the weekend, then be removed.Iurato, 39 –a certified sommelier who is The Record's wine columnist –began as a street artist, and his work with hand-cut stencils and spray paint reflects those roots.
Nowadays, he does commissioned work for the likes of the NBA and Nike, and his artwork is featured in galleries. But Iurato travels all over to paint murals in communities that need color and brightness, always with the permission of property owners.
"These are things that I don't do for money, because it's something I feel I can give to the community," Iurato says. "You can express yourself to a larger audience better than you ever possibly could in a gallery or in somebody's home."
The hoodie character he loosely calls "nobody" started appearing in his work about three years ago. "I was going through some really turbulent times. …I had lost my job, I was trying to support a family. Things were really tough," Iurato says. "I tend to paint very personal things, so I started telling my story through this character."
Realizing that many people were in the same tough position, he says, "I took the face out of this character and gave him a hood, and basically he could be anybody."
He soon noticed that people interpreted the character in many ways. "Some looked at it as being very spiritual, religious. Some looked at it as being thuggish. Some looked at it as being a Grim Reaper, something evil," says Iurato. "People have a fear of the unknown. If you can't see a person's eyes, you're immediately threatened.
"I'm the guy in that hood, and I'm the least threatening a person could get," says Iurato, who lives in Cedar Grove with his wife, Shelly, and two young sons.
Iurato does not want to forever be associated with the Florida incident. "When I paint this character now, will people always look at it and think, 'That's Trayvon?' " he says. "Why such a strange phenomenon, that you put a hood on your head and people are automatically afraid of you?"
Edited by babycakebabe - Jul 10 2013 at 2:44am