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REP YO’ CREW RED, WHITE, AND BLUE!
Red hand prints all across the streets of New York City. I didn’t quite know what to expect. The 30-something year graffiti artist “Optimo NYC” born Joshua Pacheco was wearing a top hat when we originally met in February at my roommates art show. Naturally I expected him to be an over dramatized artist full of himself and too far past the struggling thing to even give any interviews. Whoa was I totally wrong. Optimo also known as “Werds,” or sometimes confused with his “No Sleep,” statement had no problem talking about tagging up billboards, trains, walls, and hell anything he can get his hands on since the age of 12.
“I’m sorry I haven’t eaten since five,” said Optimo as he ordered a Philly Cheese Steak with mayonnaise. He apologized for holding up our interview. He had been busy all day painting a van at his usually work spot on Prince St, in Soho. The van was painted with wings and a tongue sticking out illuminated by Optimo’s regularly use of the colors red, white, and blue.
He spoke so calmly in an almost exhausted tone that refused to be defeated by no rest or sleep. He is an artist first and foremost, and he won’t take a break until he feels that he established that fact. Optimo made it clear that there is no time to linger when you’re a struggling artist living that life.
Optimo grew up in the projects during the 90’s and was always exposed to tagging and bombing. He had shown interest in the graffiti game during one of his regular visits to church. Optimo had met an older male graffiti artist at church and gained the courage to ask him to decorate a pair of jeans. The artist did, and from there it was history.
“I knew this is what I wanted to do,” he said. “I remember being 10 years old on the train with my mother going to Coney Island and seeing graffiti like on every rooftop of the train,” he said. “I felt like wow,” said Optimo, “how do people do this?” It was then that he started to socialize amongst different crews and began to develop his own style.
“I move around a lot,” he said. “Sometimes I stay in places for like three months and in the last three years I moved probably like 20 times.” He continued to eat his cheese steak on a roll. Half way through chewing and swallowing he explained that this time last year he’s was homeless, but that has never stopped him from pursuing his dreams.
“I had to stay in the street,” he said. “For that whole time I just painted on the streets and did all my canvases on the streets, and roof-tops,” he said.
Regardless of the circumstance Optimo has never considered quitting.
“Doesn’t matter what, I won’t stop painting, he said. “I will never use an excuse that I don’t have a studio to not paint,” he said in a deeper tone then he had been talking in before.
Optimo’s lifestyle as a struggling graffiti artist has consisted of him getting stabbed in the mouth, locked up in jail, and having art stolen. I couldn’t help but think, damn what a life. Okay, maybe that was the second thought. My first initial thought was a quote from the popular Transformers character Optimus Prime, “Like us, there’s more to them that meets the eye.” Optimo’s art like many other struggling artist have been overlooked a many of times, but what people fail to see is the masterpiece behind the canvas which is the artist itself not only his art.