We're standing, looking out on the sunny Soho streets from the window of artist Curtis Kulig's beautiful, well-appointed loft and ad-hoc studio, and we're wondering if we should buy a whole bunch of Sharpies at Duane Reade. We mean, of course, a handful of permanent markers and doodling two simple words over and over (and over!) again on a notebook wouldn't guarantee the same amount of success and notoriety, but it would be the first step in following his path to art-star status.
Of course, Kulig is now very, very far away from the time when his most notable mark, "Love Me," was on almost everything (walls, mailboxes, etc.) in downtown Manhattan. The expansive, inclusive,
Indeed, at this point, calling the North Dakota-raised former Angeleno a "street artist" would not only be reductive and dismissive toward all his other well-received multimedia work done before and after the rise of "Love Me" — photography, painting, sculpture — but also it would ignore all he's truly accomplished. Warm, casual, and carefully spoken, Kulig has created his own unique path to success, in what is now an increasingly narrow art world, that didn't rely on his ability to play the gallery game (something he is, quite incidentally, also good at). If the "Love Me" marks that popped up all over the playground of New York's creative set were his foot in the door of the art market, it's his deeper talent, drive, and personality, that have flung that door wide open. All the Sharpies in the world couldn't even begin to help us do what he's done.
In his apartment, we took a look at Kulig's ever-developing art, his plans for the future, the collision of art and commerce, and — oh yes — "Love Me" tattoos.
"'Love Me' started as something really tiny, written in notebooks. It's weird and wonderful to watch it just growing bigger and exciting to see how people react to the way it surfaces. For instance, the day the DKNY campaign came out, I got about 60 text messages. Also, 'Love Me' gets me a few new tattoo pictures from fans every week (sometimes, I can't even tell what body part!). I'm so lucky to make a living doing something personal to me."
"I get inspired by all types of things: '60s French music, hanging plants, 600-thread-count pillowcases that are perfectly packaged. It's hard to say how my brain filters what it takes in."
"When people like what I create that's not 'Love Me,' it really surprises me. It's sort of becoming its own animal. When I create drawings of naked ladies or write out the word 'everything' and people really like it, it feels good."
"I think the general rule with art and commerce is don't put your artwork on a product until you're dead. Thing is, I kind of already broke that rule."
"I want to do a huge sculpture for NYC parks. I want to do a plane for Virgin America. I want to do water with Perrier. I love bubbly water."
"Keep doing the same thing over and over, and try to do it better each time."
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Grooming by Andrew Colvin