Chances are you’ve likely come across prolific Brooklyn based artist RAE‘s work before. If you’ve spent any time in NYC, it is almost a certainty that you’ve seen some of his stickers, installations or murals. RAE’s art is vibrant, colorful, dynamic and enigmatic and never fails to make me stop and smile when I chance upon it. I have often wondered about the person behind the art and reached out to RAE to ask him my nine questions about his heart, his fears and his notion of the good life. I am delighted that he agreed to participate in our interview series. His responses, as you’ll see below, are full of the same poetic whimsy, depth and energy as his artwork. You can connect with RAE on Twitter @ or follow him on Instagram @rae_bk.
WHAT WAS THE LAST EXPERIMENT YOU RAN?
I have a cat that speaks to me. She told me she doesn’t want to lead such a nocturnal, lazy and mundane existence. So I made a hole in the bottom of my fence so she can go out and explore the neighborhood. I may take her to see Europe one of these days. In the beginning she was just going out for short trips but now she’s gone for days. I am about to outfit her with a small camera to see where she winds up and what she does in a day. I’ll let you know how that turns out.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT YOU FEAR AND HOW DO YOU MANAGE YOUR FEAR?
I fear that more and more people will make decisions on social and/or political issues based on what their group or party affiliation supports rather than look at issues on a case by case basis.
WHAT BREAKS AND DELIGHTS YOUR HEART? IN OTHER WORDS, WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IN AND SURRENDER TO?
I was in Ethiopia in 2014 and noticed there was pretty much no public spaces for kids to play. In Addis, the capital city, I finally spotted a playground but only one kid was inside playing while others watched from behind a small fence. The fence was one they could have easily climbed over and joined in but they chose not to. Instead they stared longingly at the one kid inside who was laughing and enjoying the zip-line ride and swings all to herself. Next to the entrance of the park was a security guard who told me that the playground belonged to the large hotel behind it and they only allowed guests staying there to use it. It was bitter sweet to see one child enjoying themselves so much while the others couldn’t even get a sniff of what it felt like to soar through the air just for the fun of it.
WHAT IS THE MOST PROVOCATIVE IDEA YOU’VE COME ACROSS IN THE PAST DECADE?
Allow yourself extra time and you can do the work of many alone.
CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT A TRANSFORMATIONAL MOMENT IN YOUR LIFE?
In high school I was a delivery boy at a butcher shop in Brooklyn then later became a deli counter person and then sort of an unofficial manager. I worked there for about 5 years. One day a lady who often shopped there asked me for help and after I assisted her she turned to me and said, “You’re really good at your job. Keep going the way you are and one day you’ll be manager of this place.” For the rest of the work day I kept staring through this large glass window into the back of the store where all the older butchers and meat packers worked. I kept thinking about how each one told me at one time or another of the big dreams they had. Some claimed they still planned on following through with them. I quit the next day.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO LIVE A GOOD LIFE?
When I was younger I used to think a “good life” meant having what “you,” as an individual, wanted. Money, success, fame, etc, but as soon as I got a small taste of that I realized it feels very hollow if the people around you don’t have the means to at least make ends meet. So many hardworking people can’t pay the bills no matter how many hours they work in a week. Having the good life means being able to uplift others that want to do for themselves. I like it when someone gets an opportunity and makes the most of it. Could be the smallest of openings but they squeeze in there and pry that shit open.
COULD YOU SHARE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE ABOUT THE ART OF BEING HUMAN?
Never hold people to the high standards you set for yourself. You’ll be disappointed more often than not. And when you do find those that operate on the same level take note and appreciate rather than be jealous.
WHAT IS YOUR DRIVING QUESTION?
I have several….
How big is the universe?
Will time travel ever be possible?
Will I ever get out of this life alive?
Would I trade in my life up to this point to start over again?
ANY BOOKS OR MOVIES YOU RECOMMEND?
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THANK YOU, RAE!