Interview by T.K. Mills - Images @Acool55 & @Katiegodowski_photography
My Life in Yellow was the one who beckoned me into the street art scene, as I made my first forays into the creative world. In the 3 or so years I’ve been around, I’ve watched as Yellow has leveled up, both personally and professionally.
When I interviewed Yellow for OpenLetr in January 2018, her story centered around the dissolution of her marriage. Her divorce was spurred by her affair, a decision that, while painful, was necessary for her growth. It was the trajectory of that decision that brought her to New York, and ultimately to her life as an artist.
I’ve long believed the essence to a great artist is evolution – the capacity to continually reinvent both themselves and their work. Despite the obstacles 2020 has presented, My Life in Yellow continues to demonstrate she has the workings of greatness.
TK: How do you feel your art has evolved? I've noticed that you started doing a lot more murals and canvases on top of your poetry.
Yellow: Yes, my art has definitely evolved on canvas. I’m getting more into abstract art and incorporating words in a more abstract way, using paint strokes as ways of showing emotion beyond just words showing emotion. Whatever I'm thinking about as I'm painting, that directs a lot of where the paint ends up on the canvas.
TK: Can you talk about some of your collaborative efforts that you've done of late?
Yellow: I have a new collaboration with Sammy Dee. She's fantastic. She is also into handwriting and calligraphy, so she and I decided that we were going to blend our styles to create the piece at the Brooklyn Beer Garden. It says "Just one more before I go" because you know what? There's always time for one more.
TK: In light of recent troubles in the world, how has that affected you as a poet, and do you miss the stage?
Yellow: When quarantine initially hit, I got silent, creatively. I stopped painting. I stopped writing. I stopped slapping stickers, because we were all terrified to leave our homes and at one point, we felt like COVID was on every surface outside and in the air and the breeze. I ceased doing anything creative and at that point went into a survival mode, existing rather than creating.
It took a long time until I wrote again. I wrote a piece for Okay Cool Magazine and that was actually my first real writing during quarantine. It was a piece that I wrote about time. The fact that for the longest time, I thought that if I left my job, if I put everything to the side and only focused on art and I had all the time in the world to work on art, I could create and do so many amazing things. Now, here I am in quarantine with all the time in the world and I have nothing. It’s looking at that and calling myself out. It's not necessarily having more time that makes you more creative and productive. It was a realization for me that I need a lot of structure and maybe the less time I have, the more creative I am.
TK: Prior to the shutdown, you’d been working on a poetry chapbook, the release of which was disrupted by COVID. Could you tell me a little bit about the process of putting that together?
Yellow: The chapbook was also designed by Sammy Dee. Prior to the quarantine, Sammy and I were working on getting the layout done. It's just a 27-page chapbook. I had been working on it for about a year. You think 27 pages would be the easiest thing in the world, but it was probably more difficult because there are only 27 pages, so you have to be confident in what you choose. Make sure to pick the right things, because there are so few pages that it has to be the right things.
The first poem is a piece about my wedding day back in 2005. The last piece is about having hope and making space for something new and new love. Everything in between is just my journey from this initial marriage, heartbreak, affair, turmoil, and then coming back into a place of healing and being ready to be emotionally available and open. That's the journey of it.
TK: On that note of being emotionally available and open, how has your love life been in all this?
Yellow: I don't like to date. I hate dating. I hate dating apps. However, I've used them. I would say during quarantine, obviously we weren't really ‘whatevering’ with anybody, but I feel like whoever you were with prior to the lockdown is who you latch onto. Did I have a COVID "boyfriend"? We were never officially boyfriend-girlfriend.
It's not that we were breaking quarantine for each other, but we were talking every day, having that emotional connection with somebody. I was in this place where I did a lot of healing in quarantine and I was ready to open myself back up to the possibility because like I said, I don't date. It's been a decade since my marriage and I've had one boyfriend, five years ago, in that ten years. I don't let anybody touch me. It terrifies me. I came out of quarantine in a different place where I'm like, you know what, I'm ready. I'm open. So, I went on a dating spree with the apps and I was going on five dates a week.
The thing is, it wasn't to have sex. It wasn't for that. It was just to be out there and to meet people. I wasn't going home with them. They were interesting, lovely humans, but not necessarily the right humans for me, but I learned a lot.
We get so hung up on people prior to really knowing them, and we create these expectations and stories around individuals when it's too early or too soon and it's just not the time.
TK: The idea of chaos creates change. It has been a fairly chaotic year, all things considered. What changes has 2020 inspired in you, either personally or through your art?
Yellow: I think that it's made me be more vulnerable and open. It took the chaos of solitude and the turmoil between individuals that you're hoping to have a relationship with that don't want to have a relationship with you where I've become open in a way I have not been before. Even though I might have thought I was emotionally available in the past, I never actually was. That was something I learned.
Each year on New Years I declare my emotional goals. Expansion and Joy is what I declared for 2020. Last year was Persistence and Growth, while Vulnerability and Love was 2018. I definitely feel as though I've expanded significantly, and I do have more joy than I did before. You don't have to be happy all the time because happiness is an emotion. It comes and goes, just like anger and sadness. This year I’ve learned to have joy, in the sense a joy for life.
TK: As an election year, politics has come to the forefront of everyone’s mind. You’ve recently started a get-out-the-vote campaign, where you’ve been encouraging people to get registered. Can you tell me more about that?
Yellow: Yes! Voting is Sexy. I cut this stencil I’ve been putting up. (I might be stenciling on the sidewalks after we finish here. I cut this baby out today. Yellow shows off her ‘Voting is Sexy’ piece.)
Obviously, it's a big election year and I am not a fan of Trump. On the record, I despise the man, but the thing is, regardless of who you're voting for, your voice needs to be heard. I'm putting it out there, talking about how attractive it is to speak your voice.
Nobody should stay home. Everybody needs to register to vote. Everybody needs to vote. I'm extremely passionate about encouraging that. Honestly, the whole Voting is Sexy, do not ask me on a date if you don't vote. This whole idea of speaking your mind and speak your voice through voting is extremely attractive for men, women, everybody. No one should stay home even if you're in a state where it's already been decided because it always goes Democrat, or it always goes Republican or whatever. It doesn't matter. Your voice needs to be heard.
TK: On that note of your voice matters, this year, we also saw a great deal of protests. I saw that many street artists voiced their opinions, political or otherwise, through these series of boarded up windows. If I'm not mistaken, you actually went out and painted some yourself. Could you tell me a little bit about that?
Yellow: Yes. I went out to SoHo. It was incredible. There are a lot of really horrible things that have happened, and we've learned a lot of lessons and I don't want to discount that. I know people who've lost people. It's not really a glorious time, but it's a time of learning.
But being out in SoHo, in the streets, and everything's boarded up, everything's shut down, and then artists just coming in, pouring in and just putting their love all over the buildings, it's an extremely powerful moment. It's one of those things where you think about New York -- New York is for the artists. And to witness this resurgence, this revolution of artists coming back into a very commercial space, which -- it was beautiful to see art taking over money.
TK: Any closing thoughts, comments or quotes you want to add?
Yellow: Yes: Vote.
Images and Text copyright of Thirdrail Art 2020