This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper. Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here
The heart is where the art is for self-taught muralist James Goldcrown. The West London native left school to pursue a career as a fashion photographer at the age of 17. Seven years later, at age 24, Goldcrown traveled to Africa to highlight the AIDS/HIV epidemic in his award-winning documentary To Die No More, which raised over £10,000 for those featured in the film.
Aiming to make the world a more beautiful place, Goldcrown moved to New York in 2007 and re-entered the fashion world by incorporating mixed media into photography. With prior experience as a street artist in the early 1990s, he gained global recognition for his Bleeding Hearts/Lovewall, vibrantly decorating the sides of buildings in New York City, Los Angeles, Houston, South Korea, Brazil and beyond. Today, he has emerged into an international sensation, working with big names companies such as MTV, Toms, Henri Bendel, and Vogue, spreading love one heart at a time.
What made you decide to leave school at 17 to pursue photography?
I didn’t like school. I wasn’t good at taking orders. I got restless in class and didn’t find things interesting. I was learning more from working. My mom was supportive. She said if I didn’t go to school, I’d have to get a job. She is the one who pushed me to work.
How did photography and street art come together?
It really started for me when I was in New York in 2007. I started selling artwork on the street with my friend. I mixed my photography with art (mixed media). We would set up outside the Apple store or Bathing Ape and people would buy our work. We chose this area because of the foot traffic. A lot of tourists would walk by and they loved the work. It was just so New York to them. I learned how to sell art and make a business for myself. That’s when this whole thing started without me even realizing it.
How do you choose who to collaborate with?
Companies approach me. It’s all about picking who you want to be reflected by. I am lucky enough to now have a business manager to help me decide who to work with and how the business plays out. She’s been in the industry for a long time and brings a more practical approach to who I should be working with, while I usually just go with my intuition. I’ve learned to consult with people closest to me to make sure I am not making a bad business move.
For example, at one point, I was approached by a very well-known brand to create a screensaver using my Bleeding Hearts, but they wouldn’t give me any credit for it. We collectively decided, from a brand recognition standpoint it likely would’ve made my brand theirs. I’m really glad I didn’t go through with that business.
Why title it Bleeding Hearts? How did the concept come into play for you?
It was very logical. The first mural I ever did, I had to label. It was quite literally a bleeding heart, so I decided to title it that. When I do murals now I title it Lovewall and when my art is in galleries I use the title Bleeding Hearts. The whole idea of the Bleeding Hearts came about as a complete accident. I was testing out spray cans and layering hearts all over a blank canvas in various colors and people really responded to it as an art piece.
What does the heart symbolize to you?
The hearts are meant to be a message for everyone. It symbolizes happiness, grieving . . . it’s a mixture of all these different emotions. Hearts can be the universal language. Birthdays, anniversaries, deaths, births. It can have a different meaning for everyone, anywhere.
Where is your most inconspicuous mural?
Ironically, the one that took me the longest was for Cycle House in Studio City, CA. It’s around the back of a building, so it’s kind of hidden, but it’s a massive wall.
What’s next on your creative journey?
I’d like to be more involved, politically. I want to travel to places like Africa and Syria and raise awareness and create murals over there. I just want to create beautiful art in an area that is impoverished. Focusing on countries that have been devastated, I’d like to go and try and make the town beautiful again. Bring some color to it and bring some hope. It’d be a little outside of my comfort zone, but I like that element of it.
What photographers/street artists do you admire?
I admire JR, Tristan Eaton. However, I’m really not inspired by artists. I like to walk around with my headphones on and pick up on the energy around me. I get inspired depending on the type of environment I’m in.
Speaking of, how does each city environment inspire you? Does one in particular hold YOUR heart?
I’m very inspired by Portland, Oregon. I find it to be a very inspiring city. On the other hand, I find Miami to be completely uninspiring. Austin, Chicago, and Portland have great energy. There is something about a city and its energy that inspires me. New York is the most inspiring; I try and fight it, but it truly is. I don’t want to sound like a cliché. It’s a city that everyone tries to compare everything to.
Check out more of his work at www.jgoldcrown.com or tag him across social media @jgoldcrown #lovewall.