I'm watching paint dry-actually bake in the sun-and I haven't been this awestruck by an edifice in New York City since I first saw the American Radiator Building. A few weeks ago Amandalynn and Lady Mags promised to paint an INKED mural, but now, looking at the completed scape, I don't think the duo are street artists-they are actually street magicians.
Partners in legal graffiti, Amandalynn and Mags are two emerging talents in the street art scene. After an excursion to Los Angeles, the two met each other during a shared ride back to their respected residences in San Francisco and Oakland. "It was around Halloween last year," Amandalynn recalls. "We talked for five and a half straight hours, and Mags invited me to a paint a wall with her in Oakland. From then on we have painted together almost every weekend."
On this particular Sunday, the tandem has transformed a wall behind dope Lower East Side boutique Community 54 into a kaleidoscope of colors and angles punctuated by a portrait of INKED Girl Jesse Lee Denning. "I met Jesse about six years ago, we partied, and my sister dropped a shot glass on her toe," Amandalynn says. "But she was cool about it and we've been friends ever since. This is the fifth time I've painted her." Amandalynn is even using Jesse in a clothing line she's doing for Goorin Bros. that drops next month. Amandalynn's current muse will be on the inside of hats and ties. When picking up a brush, Amandalynn's tendency is toward voluptuous women. "I like the sexy allure of girls," she says. "I like to leave a little bit of them hidden for the imagination." Along with murals and fashion, she works on motorcycle pinstriping and outdoor sculpture restoration but leaves the tattooing to the professionals. "People ask me to draw tattoos for them, but I assure them that tattooers are good at what they do,"she says. Her own personal collection of ink is impressive, with pieces by Grime, Norm, Marcus Pacheco, Luke Stewart, Bert Krak, Jason Kundell, Phil Holt, Shawn Barber, and Regino Gonzales.
Mags has less ink, but in no way are her pieces less impactful. On her arm sits a symbol incorporating the moon, sun, compass directions, yin and yang, and Lakota turtle. "I taught on a Lakota reservation for a little while," she says. "It was awesome. We actually painted the community's athletic center in graffiti. I did the lettering but the kids filled them in. Because it wasn't illegal graffiti where you just sneak in and put something up, I didn't want to fuck their wall up." Mags grew up in New York City during the explosion of graffiti and hip-hop and was influenced by the messages she saw around her, specifically how they looked. "It is kind of nerdy but I love doing letters," she says. "I study graffiti fonts. On this wall, because of the mood and where we are in New York City, I went with bright colors because of where the wall is. And I added some arrows for style, grace, and a feeling of movement."
While the two women quickly but thoughtfully work on finishing touches, I ask them about the difference between graffiti art and tattoo art. "There are a lot of tattooists who are graffiti writers," Mags says. "Now that I think about it, it makes sense because they are [inclined] to mark territory or a space. But graffiti is totally impermanent. You put up a mural and then in days or months somebody paints over it."
Weeks later I walk by Community 54, and see a cartoonish turtle in a bowler hat where I had once marveled at the details of Jesse's tattoos. I can't wait for the next artist to come by. -Rocky Rakovic