Credits: interview by T.K. Mills for Thirdrail Art - Images and videos by: @johndomine1 @acool55 @just_a_spectator
T.K. Mills: How did you guys start painting?
Phame: You want to start?
Isabella: I started back in 2012 with an NGO that fought for women's rights. I learned how to paint with them. Then I started doing street art related to that.
Phame: I started painting in New York, late ‘90s, painting graffiti, painting letters. Eventually, I moved to Brazil in 2013, met Bella and started painting some murals. We’ve been painting together since what? 2016?
Isabella: 2016, yeah.
T.K. Mills: What inspired you guys to paint with the purple and green color set?
Isabella: We always use those colors. I always had teals and greens in my work. And Justin always had used purple.
Phame: Purple has always been in my life. Since snowboarding, I've always washed purple just to stand out. Then I always use it in graffiti and letters. I always loved purple, so I just -- I wear it as well.
T.K. Mills: When you are setting up to paint a wall, how do you choose what imagery you use? Do you have a roster of images that you tend to pull from?
Isabella: We usually pull off a theme. Our work reflects our relationships. So a lot of our work is how we portray ourselves because we think like this way, people will be able to relate to it in a way. And we talk about equality and respect. This is
Phame: Balance, Yin and Yang.
Isabella: Balance. It is usually the main theme of our work. Then based off that and based off the wall, we think about an image that represents that.
T.K. Mills: What attracts you guys to those of themes of balance and equality?
Phame: Being in a relationship, being married. It's like everything needs to be balanced.
Isabella: And working together as well, as a couple.
T.K. Mills: How do you feel working in a partnership? Both in terms of a relationship, but also an artistic partnership, how do you guys think that has helped you develop your own individual styles or collaboratively?
Phame: I think it helps a lot. It's the main thing, that we're in a relationship. It's like balance.
Isabella: I think also letting go of your ego, understanding where your partner’s work will fit better than yours. So just allowing them to do it. And it just flows.In the beginning, when we first met, when we weren't collaborating. We were just painting together but not merging our work. And it took some time for us to learn how to work with each other and trust each other enough to just really not separate anymore what is Bella and what is Phame.People don't know our separate styles. They can't see it. It's so merged. And I think that comes from being in a relationship but also working closely together.
T.K. Mills: Can you tell me about the wall you’re painting here in Akumal?
Phame: Yeah, this wall -- Akumal, this year's theme is climate change. That's what they told us. So we wanted to go with use the yin and yang thing. So this side has the hand holding --
Isabella: The green side.
Phame: The green side has the hand, like taking care of the nature and kind of preserving. If we preserve, it will stay like this, stay green. And if we don't, that's the pollution side. So you see the hand is actually adding the smokestack. And it has the oil spilling into the river. Then it has some cars representing traffic and stuff like that. Then there’d be some smoke. So it's just like it has to have a balance.
Isabella: We have the potential to preserve or to destroy.
T.K. Mills: How did you guys get involved in the Akumal Arts Festival?
Phame: We did a bunch of murals in New York in 2018. We met Rena. [@WalkingGirlNYC, one of the Akumal Arts Festival Organizers]. Then we met Danielle Mastrion, who told us about it because she was here last year. She is from a part of Brooklyn close to where I grew up.
T.K. Mills: Where in Brooklyn?
Phame: I'm from Flatbush. Danielle’s from over by Coney Island. I went to Midwood High School. So we have a lot of similar friends. She actually came to visit us in Brazil a couple of years back.Then that's how we met. And ever since then, we've been going back and forth trading ideas and telling each other about festivals. Then she told us about this one in Mexico.
So it's like that. Word of mouth and people, and just us being in New York a lot. We we're in New York last year and this summer also, last summer, just going back and forth.
T.K. Mills: Do you guys do a lot of the festival circuits then?
Phame: Yeah. We just came from Talking Walls in Charlotte.
Isabella: We did a big building. It’s a nice size. And it was totally different from this. Actually, it was different from what we usually do.
Phame: It was like abstract basically, just some abstracts.
Isabella: We like challenges too.
T.K. Mills: Well, on that note, do you guys usually stick with figurative work, or do you experiment with abstract?
Phame: I do. I used to do a lot of abstract. Then she does the figurative stuff. So we thought like, “Oh, is this something… We've never done a big…” It was a whole entire building, so we thought like, “Oh, let's try something different and challenge ourselves.” And abstract just came. And it worked out really well.
T.K. Mills: How do you feel the Akumal Arts Festival compares to some of the other festivals?
Phame: The difference is it's really hot here. It's beautiful. It's amazing. The beaches, we wake up and --
Isabella: It's incredible.
Phame: We're always on the front of the beach. Incredible. What else would you --
Isabella: The color of the water, everything.
Phame: Inspiring. Yeah.
Isabella: We have this sketch in mind, but coming here and seeing the nature, we felt even more inspired to do this, to paint this.
T.K. Mills: Is there anything else you guys want our readers to know about either yourselves or your art?
Phame: We currently live in Portugal right now. We live in Porto. But we do travel to the States a lot. Every couple of months, we're in the States trying to tour the festivals and just to paint as much as we can. And if anyone has walls for us, let us know. Hit us up. Because we definitely want more walls, walls or projects.
Isabella: To spread the message as well.
Phame: Spread our message and collaborate. Let's collaborate.