Curtis Kulig, An Art Career Built On Love



1_CurtisKulig03_040Photographed by Winnie Au

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,
2_CurtisKulig03_017Photographed by Winnie Au
and honestly quite-beautiful sentiment and visual form of "Love Me" has spread through both the art and commercial worlds like a wonderful, uplifting virus, appearing on massive canvases in dedicated gallery shows, clothing, advertising, billboards, neon signs — you name it. Quite adeptly, Curtis has used it not only as a personal message of compassion to the world, but also as a launch vehicle for his other work.

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.
3_CurtisKulig01_189_dropPhotographed by Winnie Au

Love Connection
"'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."

Source Materials
"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."
4_CurtisKulig03_006Photographed by Winnie Au

New Tricks
"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."

Product Placement
"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."
5_CurtisKulig01_143Photographed by Winnie Au

Bucket List
"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."

Practical Advice
"Keep doing the same thing over and over, and try to do it better each time."

See more from Kulig and other visionaries at ORGNL.TV



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Grooming by Andrew Colvin