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Interviews with Street Artists: Empowering Yourself with Blur

November 6, 2017

(Collaborative Mouth Series by Blur and Yuienglingblingbling)

If you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time, chances are you’ve seen me post work by Philadelphia-based sticker and street artist Blur before. She was one of the 30+ artists who participated in January’s Signs of Solidarity public art protest against hate and divisiveness on Trump’s Inauguration Day that I helped to co-organize. And this past August, I even named Blur as one of three new Philly street artists that you should be following in an interview with Time Out Philadelphia.

Blur’s work is about empowerment and making yourself seen and heard. And she’s garnered a ton of love and attention in her relatively short street art career, including recently being invited to partner with the Philadelphia Museum of Art. So, when thinking about who to interview next for this new Interviews with Street Artists series, my first thought was Blur.

SD: Hey Blur! Ok, so your sticker and wheatpaste Mouth Series has really taken off over the last two years or so. It’s one of the most consistently Instagrammed Philly street art series that I see people posting about. Why do you think it has resonated so much with people?
B: The Mouth Series has been personally empowering for me to create. It’s a vessel for my own story, opinions, and feelings. I have a lot to say but don’t always feel heard, and I’ve found that’s a feeling most people share. I think that’s why the series has had such a positive response, because the viewers see themselves in my work. People resonate with art that they can relate and connect to. This series is me and all my vulnerabilities, out there publicly, loud and unapologetic. It has authenticity, and people respond to that. Also I believe all humans want two things: to be heard and to be seen. That’s what this series has always been about, and I believe it makes people feel that way.

SD: How did you get in to street art? You write on your website about how in 2015 your health plummeted in ways you never imagined, and that for months you quite literally could not speak. “Blur was created from desperation, a need to be heard,” you write. Was that what got you started, or what pushed you further?
B: That’s exactly how it all started. I was at a new low point, a new shade of disability for me that pushed me into wanting to share my art and my voice publicly through street art. People with chronic illnesses really suffer in silence. I’ve seen many shades of disability, and continue to see them. Wheel chairs, walkers, canes, inability to hold a pencil, inability to form words, hospital stays, intensive treatments, lots of medications in lots of forms, etc. I haven’t finished college, I was a high school drop out, and eventually got my GED. That was all happening in my life, and it was all kept hidden away for years. Until I suffered a seizure that took my speaking capabilities away for 6 months. That was the pushing point, and it pissed me off enough that I decided that’s it, I am not going to be quiet any longer. While I was hobbling through Philly going to appointments, I would put up stickers of the Mouth Series. It was so cathartic, and I started to hope that people who saw them could relate. Most of the time it’s very hard on my body to do what I do, but I’ve been connecting and relating to people throughout the city since the first sticker I put up, and I love it.

Side note, now what it’s like being a female street artist with disabilities and chronic illnesses that gets herself all over Philly to put up her artwork? Whole different interview! Lol

SD: So, you just worked with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, right? I’m curious, with all your growing success, how does it feel to be heard, to have your work affirmed by thousands of Instagram followers and leaders in Philly’s art world alike?
B: YAS! I just worked with the Philadelphia Museum of Art in their September Final Friday event, Word Up! I still can’t believe that happened; its always been a dream of mine – the PMA is my favorite place on earth. It feels incredible, beautiful, awed, validating, and humbling to be heard by Philadelphia.

SD: On your Instagram you say that you’re a “believer in empowerment and vulnerability.” Can you talk about what that means to you?
B: I think the root of vulnerability and empowerment is leaning into discomfort. When you open yourself up to vulnerability, the good and the bad kind, and accept the discomfort, it empowers you. Vulnerability is the birth place of so many wonderful things, it’s just not always comfortable to feel. So many of us are afraid of this discomfort – I’m still learning how to lean into it. But I keep this in mind when I create my work because I am empowered when I see people growing from their vulnerability and it’s been one of my goals as an artist to inspire others to try to do the same. End of the day, one of the most beautiful aspects of public art, is how it connects people. Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection, and connection is the birthplace of empowerment, and to connect all these things in a public space is amazing.

SD: A lot of the work I’ve been seeing from you is specifically about empowering women. Over the last year we’ve seen Trump become president followed by the unprecedentedly large and impactful Women’s March, then most recently the #MeToo campaign with millions of women calling out men who harass and assault women. In light of these and other growing  women-led movements, do you feel hopeful in this moment?
B: I’m hopeful because I’m seeing women becoming fed up with a world that does not care about their voice, opinions, and bodies, and who’ve decided not to put up with this shit anymore. Which is exactly how I felt when I started my work as Blur, and had my own pushing point to speaking up. The growing numbers of women and men being fed up with our sexist, patriarchal society gives me immense hope for the improvement of life for all people in the future.

SD: Ok, you sell prints and clothing, right? How can people support you and purchase your work?
B: I do, is my website. I have a shop on there and sell prints, buttons, limited edition apparel, stickers, and I do custom work too.

SD: Lastly, are you working on anything new right now?
B: I’m still working on the #NoteToSelfProject, and I’m currently working with a company to do my first mural in Strawberry Mansion. Also, there’s a rough draft of my first poetry book in the works.

Thanks so much for sharing with us, Blur!

Check out my interview with street artist Inphltrate here!

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