Joshua Zane Starnes
Interview with Ellen Gurley
E: I drove down Central Avenue the other day and to my surprise, the side of a bar I’m familiar with was painted with two fists. And on the knuckles there was the word “American”. I liked it so much I did a U-turn and photographed it. I asked Central Station who the artist was and they sent me to you. It’s so nice to meet you. Tell me about the inspiration for this piece?
J: Ellen, it’s great to meet you, as well. I am a visual story teller and I sign all my art with my middle name Zane. My art happens a few images at a time (kinda like a cliff hanger). My visual stories are a kind of game for people’s minds that inspire people to build their own story for the meaning of the symbols found in my art. Businesses hire me to create a visual story that can communicate something powerful and to make a buzz about their business. With things like Face book (and social media networking) it can go to a whole new level.
At 2131 Central Avenue (Central Station) I am telling the story of a character that I have create in my head based on the images I see in NoDa and Plaza-Midwood. Central Station hired me to paint two specific murals inside the business. On my recommendation, the owner agreed to “test” the exterior wall with my visual story concept of this character in my mind who has AMERICAN knuckle tattoos. It has worked wonderfully and I’ve been working on it ever since. The neighborhood is watching the work in progress and it has created a conversation that was positive for business. Art speaks to people’s hearts and that can be a powerful magnet to their buying decisions in these times. It’s art that can be held in the minds of the community. It’s a marketing experience to all the community to shape the future of the art. The neighborhood gets to see the evolution of the painting and make comments that influence my next brush stroke. That rocks because social media is recording everyone’s experience.
The result of this project (so far) has been a huge success. The bar gets a story on their exterior wall that gets them noticed because people are literally co-creating the visual story that I am painting. We crave stories because that’s how our brains work. A canvas that tells a story is a living thing and brings everyone to the proverbial campfire to buy some cocktails.
One side note: There is an obvious political edge being that the literal canvas is a gay bar. Almost instantly a discussion appeared around the graffiti mural. Many are interpreting the painting as a gentle reminder to the world that gay people are still fighting for their basic human rights. Naturally, yesterday when the Supreme Court voted down DOMA and Prop 8, they invited me back to do a quick last minute temporary painting to celebrate before their celebration party last night. A good time was had by all.
E: I understand that you also did murals for Krazy Fish (an angry, yellow octopus) on their parking lot fence. How fun.
J: Yeah, I love that angry octopus, which, by the way, is amazing right now as he is propped above an aggressive squash plant they planted along their fence. It looks like he is hiding in seaweed. I just got rehired there to give the octopus something to fight with! Hence the story evolves and the neighborhood takes ownership of the art work as they invent their own stories about the images with which I am supplying them. You will have to go see what other creature climbs out of my imagination at Krazy Fish.
E: This is three places in Plaza-Midwood alone. Are there more in this neighbourhood?
J: There are not more exterior murals in the neighborhood, but I am constantly consulting with businesses that want to hear my ideas about how to help their business. Also I have been an artist for thirty nine years now so I have tons of work ‘floating around’ out there.
E: Have you always drawn on the walls?
J: Yes, I have always drawn on the walls or any other surface that I could find. I used to get in trouble as a kid, but now I only do public murals that are commissioned.
E: So, you just came back from South Beach where you spent ten days working on something for a club. What was that?
J: Oh my, I did lots of things while I was in Miami. I body-painted a model, consulted on the restoration of a antique lead garden statue, and I oversaw the moving of a large custom mural I did for a ocean front condo in South Beach. Finally, I was contracted by DeLucca Events to create custom body stencils that will become the signature flair for their staff at this highly successful events company.
E: I understand that you wrote a book entitled “Gay and OK : an Inspirational Guide for Coming Out of the Closet and Building a Brighter Future”, so I see that painting is not your sole craft. Tell me about the journey writing this book and was there some cooking that you became known for, at some point?
J: You can get the book on www.Amazon.com, it‘s written for a younger audience and it is getting younger all the time when kids are choosing to come out. And yes, I did do some cooking segments on the Charlotte Today show a few years ago as “Josh the Leftover King”.
E: They don’t make ‘em more local than yourself, having lived in Charlotte, Waxhaw and Monroe your whole life. I, too, am a native. Do you always see yourself here?
J: Actually, I have lived and traveled all over the place in my career as a banking consultant. Here lately, I have become a snow bird between Charlotte and Miami.
E: I know that you went to UNC-Charlotte, as did I. What did you study there?
J: I studied International Business and Tequilla. And I studied abroad extensively (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, England, France, Spain, and Mexico). Mexico was by far my most favorite.
E: Talk to me. What does ‘spiritual not religious’ mean?
J: I’m Christian but I break lots of rules in my pursuit of understanding what unites humanity instead of the crazy imaginary borders we draw in our imaginations. Whether we‘re Jewish, Muslim or Christian, we all started with Abraham. I don’t think Abraham would be ‘ok’ with how unhappily we all seem to be playing together these days. Religion seems to be failing and spirituality seems to be more unifying word these days.
E: What’s next-up for Joshua Zane Starnes?
J: Most of my work is by word of mouth and you never know where one can be taken with that. A tattoo-themed food establishment is next on my work log and I'm in talks with a local florist about what we can do to increase their foot traffic.
I would like people to have my cell phone number and email address in case they want me to do work for them (I paint people, canvas, business, ceilings, cars, boats, bikes, etc.).
|Ellen Gurley Visit Author Page | firstname.lastname@example.org|