If you're not familiar with the work of Twin Cities-based art team Broken Crow, it wouldn't be too difficult to get up to speed. In the last few years they have managed to paint walls on four continents, everything heavily documented. A quick Google search pulls up tons of images and time-lapse video clips of their signature style: massive and intricately detailed stencils covering urban structures, barns in the middle of nowhere, and everything in between.
I didn't need Google to see any of that stuff though because John, one half of Broken Crow, and I live together. I get to see first hand what type of crazy you have to be to make something like the 12-foot tall, 75-foot long (!) gallery piece on display at the XYandZ gallery. I would've just interviewed them in our living room, but they are in Africa, painting more, so I emailed them questions.
P.O.S.: Explain Broken Crow. A lot of people do not understand what is going on.
Broken Crow is Mike and John. We've made a conscious decision to work collaboratively in an effort to produce more and better artwork, both indoors and outdoors. We combine to form Art Voltron. By working together we're capable of things we never would be alone.
P.O.S.: People are most familiar with the incredibly large scope of your stencils. Aside from "gigantic," what are some common characteristics or themes throughout your work?
We use a lot of animal imagery in our painting. Our belief is that for every animal that goes extinct, our chances of surviving as a human species get a little bit worse. We're reintroducing animals back into environments they're no longer present in.
P.O.S.: What was your approach to the show at XYandZ gallery?
For the XYandZ show, we wanted to bridge the gap between our outdoor and our gallery work. We knew that the whole gallery needed to be painted in order to put the scale of our paintings in context. After months of discussions, we ended up deciding on doing one really epic painting, with smaller paintings that you could take away from it.
P.O.S.: You have paintings, legal and illegal, all over the world at this point. You guys are currently answering questions from Gambia, where you are painting what on what?
We're currently in the Gambia in West Africa. Today was day one of painting our way through a series of villages as part of a festival called Wide Open Walls. The festival aims to bring attention to the Ballabu Conservation Project, which is in place to help preserve the way of life for 100,000 people throughout 14 villages in the area, and protect an area of over 85 square kilometers from deforestation. The whole experience thus far has been absolutely stunning; we're working with an amazing team of international artists, all of whom are incredible in their own right. Also, the people of the Gambia are wonderful.
P.O.S.: Are there any specific places you can't wait to paint?
We'd like to get back to Paris in the next couple years, and do a west coast tour. We'd also really like to paint in Antarctica. The average temperature in January there is actually considerably warmer than it is in Minnesota, and it even occasionally gets above freezing.
P.O.S.: What do you have planned next? Something about barns? Stencil graffiti animation? Or is this stuff all top secret....
We are working on a project called Rural Mural. It's still in the planning stages, but we can say that we're hoping to do somewhere around 30 murals across the state next summer and the next.
P.O.S.: You are both fathers. Mike, your daughter is nearly brand new. How has being total daddies affected your art?
The inspiration from becoming a father is such a life-changing thing. You want to become a better artist and person for your kids. You also want to sleep again. Finding a balance has been difficult, but we are very lucky to have such supportive wives and families. We're ultimately hoping to make the world our kids are growing up in at least slightly more beautiful.
P.O.S.: Hey, John, what's up with our matching knuckle tattoos?
I've had a few people tell me that I stole the idea from you but there's a picture floating around the internet of the two of us standing together right after we got them done. It's become our family tattoo.
P.O.S.: What's your favorite shit?
End-time theory. Swimming. Coffee. Animals. Mythology. Cryptozoology. Water slides. Puppies. Unicorns. New music to listen to while working on stencils. Our families. Traveling. The magic of real life experiences made better because of the internet. Meteorology. We love you.
P.O.S.: The show at XYandZ gallery closes on?
November 13, but we're having a closing party on October 30. Marijuana Deathsquads is playing it. You should come.
BROKEN CROW will host their WHEN TRU$T IS THE NEW MONEY closing party with Marijuana Deathsquads on SATURDAY, OCTOBER 30, at XYANDZ GALLERY; thexyandz.com