Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Following a dream - from Azerbaijan to New York

A crowd of onlookers had gathered around Mischa, and they were gasping. For a street artist, this is, of course, a really good thing. More patrons, more sales. More gasping patrons, many more sales.

Four years earlier, Mischa had moved from Azerbaijan to New York by way of Moscow. He had a scholarship to study here, but it wasn't just education he was seeking. Mischa already had a Master's degree. He'd even been a well-regarded graffiti artist. 

At first, Mischa wanted to learn English. His scholarship paid for school, but when it ended, he needed to find another way to make ends meet. Graffiti doesn't exactly pay the bills, so Mischa considered other ways to create art. One thing led to another, and he discovered an unusual painting technique on Youtube. So, he taught himself the method, and began working the streets. 

Donning a gas mask, Mischa uses an assortment of spray paint, blades, old newspaper, and heavy metal discs to carve skylines into canvas. Deft curves for the Brooklyn bridge, sharp edges for skyscrapers, and a speckled night sky. And if that hadn't been enough to wow those of us gathered around him, Mischa completed each painting in just ten minutes and charged only ten dollars for a freshly minted piece. All this while he took requests from customers, and questions from me. 

"Do you love it?" I asked him, expecting an obvious answer.

"No," he said. "This is not my dream." 

"Then what is?" I said, dumbfounded by this surprisingly unhappy marriage of talent and passion.

"I love to paint," Mischa said. "I love it. I love doing this. But not on the streets. I want to paint somewhere, art, for someone." 

Watch the video above to see Mischa paint the Manhattan skyline. A customer in the crowd had asked him to include the twin towers, and he did just that. For now, before Mischa makes the leap from street artist to artist's loft, find him on 48th and 7th Avenue in Times Square, where he works daily. 

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