HOTTEA: Minneapolis Graffiti Artist Turned Street Art Innovator

It was a hot summer night in Minneapolis.

Two dark figures with backpacks crossed a dimly lit road and jumped a fence that led to the freeway. The incognito duo found the perfect, high-visibility location and unloaded their gear: a gallon of paint, a roller and a slew of brightly colored spray paint cans. The two young graffiti artists commenced painting. Semi-trucks sped by. Cars honked and headlights flashed. Adrenaline-pumped hands whisked side-to-side just inches from the bland, monotonous highway wall. Aerosol paint cans clattered and clanked as a shadowy masterpiece began to take shape. After ten minutes, time seemed to lag by as the zoned-out traffic hummed in the background. Twenty minutes passed and just as soon as it began, it was over. The two street artists hurriedly slipped away leaving their graffiti art installments for morning commuters to eyeball.

Hopping the fence again they instantly noticed a slow-rolling car nearby — a chase was imminent. The undercover police car that passed them whipped around and peeled out, wheels spitting black tar towards the yellow street lights above. Both of street artists hit full sprint and used their paint-stained finger tips to scale an eight-foot wall. One of the two wasn't quick enough as the police officer came barreling out of the police car and grabbed his paint-filled backpack midway up the wall. Determined to not get caught, the street artist slipped out of his backpack, then his coat, and started sprinting down the uneven sidewalk. Seconds later he hit the ground, hard. Face bloodied and scrapped, the Taser prongs were still pulsating inside him. Attempting to breath he tried to turn on his side. Another excruciating shock absorbed through his body. It wasn't until two more electrocuting blasts rimmed through his vertebrae that he was told "don't move or I'll charge you again."

The next three days in jail brought on a metamorphosis that culminated in the creation of the street art project that is now know as HOTTEA. "The transition between mediums came from confinement, isolation, as well as finding happiness and hope," says HOTTEA.

 

 

 


HOTTEA is composed of two artists, one of which that started writing graffiti art back in 1996 under a different name. He took inspiration from Boston-based Monk and Minneapolis' Ewok. "I liked how those artists specifically chose their locations well," says HOTTEA, "Much of graffiti is all about placement."

 

 

 

The HOTTEA project developed after a trip to jail, but it was also heavily inspired by past experiences: A grandmother teaching the skill of knitting, anti-gay bullying from kids at school, and, most importantly, the relationships that that were developed along the way — negative, or positive. HOTTEA explains, "The HOTTEA project embodies the similarities and differences in all of us. I wanted to base the project off an idea that had room for growth. We are always growing as people and the dynamic between people gives endless possibilities."

HOTTEA's latest work named "Socorro" was created on the top of a Seward-neighborhood highway bridge. "The meaning is to create a piece about two people with different backgrounds finding similarities and meeting halfway to form a closer bond." HOTTEA explains. "The purpose is to create something beautiful and interesting for people to look at and experience."

 

 

 


According to the New York Times, guerrilla art, or "craftivism" like the HOTTEA project "could become as potent a social movement as urban farming." And The Guardian refers to graffiti knitting as an "epidemic" and highlights the London-based Knit the City collaboration of yarn artists.

Despite the popularity of the movement, uncomissioned street art is still deemed illegal almost everywhere in the world. Besides recent "Graffiti Zone" designated areas in Taiwan and Australia, street art still carries heavy fines and jail sentences in the United States, England and most other countries. In 1994, Michael Fay, a student living in Singapore, was even given four cane lashes, four months in jail, and a $2,233 fine for spray paint vandalism.

Craftism, guerrilla art, or yarn bombing — such as the works by HOTTEA — is also classified as vandalism despite the lack of damage to personal or public property. Fines have been handed out by police and installations ripped down. HOTTEA has had four run-ins with police, all ending in warnings. Street art blog Unurth.com founder Sebastian Buck disagrees with common perception, "[To me] yarn bombing is such an interesting thing. I wouldn't classify it as graffiti, because to me that term infers spray paint, but I would include it under the broader umbrella of street art."

Many artists question why law enforcement and select groups of citizens fight for a public space so bland. It's just plain boring, many street artists agree. "At its best, street art brings a humanity to stark urban environments," says Buck, "and yarn bombers definitely achieve that."

 

-- Tristan Pollock
about.me | flickr

Socorro from Hot Tea on Vimeo.

*Photos by Tristan Pollock and Anthony Kwan.

 

This article has been archived from the original MPLSART.COM site. It may contain dead links, broken images, and formatting issues. We are working to fix these as much as possible. Thank you for your patience.

#mplsart
If you are making art or looking at art in the Twin Cities, use the hashtag to show it off.
OPENINGS & EVENTS
Fri Aug 18th 5:30PM - 8PM CST
514 Studios
514 N 3RD ST, Minneapolis
Fri Aug 18th 6PM - 9PM CST
The Q.arma Building
1224 Quincy St NE, Minneapolis
Fri Aug 18th 7PM - 1AM CST
Public Functionary
1400 12th Ave NE, Minneapolis
Fri Aug 18th 7PM - 10PM CST
Hair And Nails Gallery
2222 1/2 E 35th ST, Minneapolis
Sat Aug 19th 7PM - 11PM CST
Yeah Maybe
2528 22nd ST E, Minneapolis
Sat Aug 26th 7PM - 11PM CST
Gamut Gallery
717 S 10th St, Minneapolis
Wed Aug 30th 6PM CST Tour
The Soap Factory
514 2nd St. SE, Minneapolis
Thu Aug 31st 6PM - 9PM CST
MCAD MFA Studios and Gallery
2201 1st Ave S, Minneapolis
Thu Sep 7th 6PM - 7:30PM CST
Textile Center
3000 University Ave SE, Minneapolis
Fri Sep 8th 6PM - 9PM CST
MCAD MFA Studios and Gallery
2201 1st Ave S, Minneapolis
Sat Sep 9th 2PM - 5PM CST
Groveland Gallery
25 Groveland Terrace, Minneapolis
Sat Sep 9th 2PM - 5PM CST
Groveland Gallery
25 Groveland Terrace, Minneapolis
Fri Sep 8th 6PM - 9PM CST
MCAD MFA Studios and Gallery
2201 1st Ave S, Minneapolis
Sat Sep 9th 6PM - 9PM CST
Form + Content Gallery
210 N 2nd St, Minneapolis
Sat Sep 9th 6PM - 9PM CST
Traffic Zone
250 3rd Ave N, Minneapolis
Tue Sep 12th 6PM CST Artist Talk
Minnesota Museum of American Art
141 E 4th Street, St. Paul
Thu Sep 14th 6PM - 9PM CST
Katherine E. Nash Gallery
405 21st Ave S, Minneapolis
Fri Sep 15th 6:30PM - 9PM CST
Highpoint Center for Printmaking
912 West Lake Street, Minneapolis
Thu Sep 21st 7PM CST Artist Talk
Mia's U.S. Bank Gallery
2400 3rd Ave S, Minneapolis
Sat Sep 23rd 7PM - 9PM CST
Kolman Pryor Gallery
1500 Jackson St NE #395, Minneapolis
Wed Sep 27th 6PM CST Closing Night Panel Discsusion
Hennepin County Library
300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis
Fri Oct 6th 6PM - 8PM CST
Minneapolis College of Art and Design
2501 Stevens Avenue, Minneapolis
Thu Oct 12th 5:30PM - 7:30PM CST
Traffic Zone
250 3rd Ave N, Minneapolis
Fri Oct 20th 6PM - 8PM CST
Northern Clay Center
2424 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis
NOW SHOWING
Jul 8th - Aug 20th
Circa Gallery
210 N First St, Minneapolis
Jul 1st - Aug 23rd
The Soap Factory
514 2nd St. SE, Minneapolis
Jun 15th - Aug 24th
Sabes Jewish Community Center
4330 S Cedar Lake Rd, Minneapolis
Jul 7th - Aug 26th
Highpoint Center for Printmaking
912 West Lake Street, Minneapolis
Jul 7th - Aug 26th
Textile Center
3000 University Ave SE, Minneapolis
Jul 29th - Aug 27th
Soo Visual Arts Center
2909 Bryant Ave S, Minneapolis
Aug 3rd - Aug 27th
AZ Gallery
308 Prince Street, St. Paul
Aug 12th - Aug 27th
Rosalux Gallery
1400 Van Buren Street NE, Minneapolis
Jul 29th - Aug 27th
Soo Visual Arts Center
2909 Bryant Ave S, Minneapolis
Jul 15th - Aug 27th
Flanders + Associates
818 West Lake St, Minneapolis
Aug 12th - Aug 27th
Rosalux Gallery
1400 Van Buren Street NE, Minneapolis
Jul 29th - Aug 27th
Soo Visual Arts Center
2909 Bryant Ave S, Minneapolis
Jul 29th - Aug 29th
CO Exhibitions Gallery
1101 Stinson Blvd, Minneapolis
Aug 7th - Aug 30th
Artspace Jackson Flats
901 18 1/2 Ave NE, Minneapolis
Aug 3rd - Aug 30th
Solid State MN
4022 E 46th St, Minneapolis
Jun 24th - Sep 1st
801 Washington Lofts
801 N Washington Ave, Minneapolis
Jul 7th - Sep 1st
Light Grey Art Lab
118 East 26th St, Minneapolis
Jul 20th - Sep 1st
Groveland Gallery
25 Groveland Terrace, Minneapolis
Aug 3rd - Sep 3rd
Northern Clay Center
2424 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis
Aug 12th - Sep 6th
Showroom
615 W Lake St, Minneapolis
Jun 17th - Sep 10th
Weisman Art Museum
333 E River Pkwy, Minneapolis
Aug 1st - Sep 12th
Modus Locus
3500 Bloomington Ave S, Minneapolis
Jul 28th - Sep 17th
Minneapolis College of Art and Design
2501 Stevens Avenue, Minneapolis
Aug 4th - Sep 17th
Altered Esthetics
1224 Quincy St NE, Minneapolis
Aug 17th - Sep 23rd
Form + Content Gallery
210 N 2nd St, Minneapolis
Aug 10th - Sep 27th
Hennepin County Library
300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis
Jun 1st - Sep 30th
Track 29 City Apartments
2841 Bryant AVE S, Minneapolis
Jul 29th - Oct 6th
Obsidian Arts
528 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis
Aug 14th - Oct 8th
Birchwood Cafe
3311 East 25th Street, Minneapolis
Jul 20th - Oct 29th
Mia's U.S. Bank Gallery
2400 3rd Ave S, Minneapolis
Aug 17th - Oct 29th
Minnesota Museum of American Art
141 E 4th Street, St. Paul
Jul 1st - Dec 30th
Smallest Museum Saint Paul
2399 University Avenue, Saint Paul
Jun 10th - Apr 17th
The Soap Factory
514 2nd St. SE, Minneapolis