Street Artist Birdcap – On Community and Not Losing Hope
“I like the idea of street art and mural work… it enters your space, you don’t enter its space. They hit you before you’ve had your coffee. It could be something real quiet or mundane but just the idea that you might wonder what a sentient donut would talk about- like, that’s enough to just lower your blood pressure for a second.” -Michael Roy AKA Birdcap
We met Birdcap on a sunny day in North Denver, Colorado. He was in town for the Crush Walls event; an urban art festival seeking to enrich the community through the celebration of art and urban beautification. Over the space of a few days he and 64 other artists would contribute to 77 art installations transforming streets and alleyways into open-air galleries.
The outdoor arena has always held a pull for Birdcap who spent the early years of his career trying to work within the lonely confines of archetypal studio spaces. As luck would have it, time spent teaching English in Korea saw him introduced to the Seoul graffiti scene- a serendipitous experience that would change his life trajectory. Passing through torn down apartment complexes enroute to the subway, Birdcap was amazed by the art decorating the decaying walls and quickly reached out to the crews creating it. Soon he found himself immersed in the local graffiti community; inspired by the passion these artists had and driven to impress his new friends with murals of his own. For Birdcap- despite how it is widely documented- graffiti is all about social interaction and its essence is inexorably linked with a sense of community and having a good time.
So where does the name come from? The moniker “Birdcap” is a throwback to Roy’s early days growing up in Escatawpa, Mississippi, where he drew Egyptian Gods in his grade school binder. One of his characters featured the face of Horus, a falcon-headed deity, sporting a hat which he came to call “Birdcap.” Years later, as Roy began painting outdoors, the character resurfaced and he adopted its name as his handle. Today, Birdcap remains interested in the historical and mythical; drawing upon an “international hodgepodge” of religious and mythological themes which he pairs with the cartoons of his youth. Allowing these various motifs to simmer in his mind he reproduces them on walls around the globe.
Birdcap now packs his life into a suitcase, adopting a transient lifestyle he goes where vacant walls take him. He still appreciates the role of the galleries that left him frustrated in years past but it’s clear that urban spaces hold an important place in his heart. “I’m supportive of galleries, but the very idea of one seems to insist that art has to be isolated from the everyday by white drywall… Street art is a billboard for individuality. It’s democratic on its viewership and it’s censorship. There’s no door filtering out particular audiences.” That being said it’s also clear that, for Birdcap, part of the magic of murals is that they are frivolous entities. There is power in the act of creating despite impracticality, it inspires hope and keeps despair at bay. “The world can be really dark, I think the act of creation is something that’s sentimental and it makes it all bearable. Whatever you do… do it with complete sincerity.”
When he’s not filling up walls with giant cognizant baked goods you can find Birdcap taking long walks in gridlocked cities with a pineapple in hand, daydreaming about an alternate reality in which he is a rapper. You can also find him in the digital realm: @birdcap on Instagram, and at his website http://birdcap.net.