Monday, July 28, 2008
HE WHO FEARS SHADOWS, CONFRONTS HIS FEARS
Ellis Gallagher is an institution in Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens. Once a punk graffiti artist who would "tag" subway cars, Gallagher, who is known by his street name, "Ellis G", has been chalking up sidewalks and walls for several years now with his shadow art.
Ellis G told me he started this unique type of art, after being mugged in the neighborhood a few years back. All he remembers from the attack, was the shadow of his mugger passing from his left to right behind him. Then, he turned around and a hulking figure with a machete demanded his money. A few years earlier, he had given up vandalising subway cars, after a friend was killed by an F train just as they entered the underground tunnel.
So now, the 34 year old East Village native has channeled his talents and confronted his fears in one full swoop. His art can be found all around Brooklyn, but it doesn't usually last long. A heavy rain washes his art away pretty quickly. Unlike his days as a graffiti artist sneaking around in the cover of night, Ellis G now marks up the sidewalks whenever the mood inspires him. He figures he's done it thousands of times and not just here but around the world.
Unfortunately, even though Ellis G is not putting any permanent marks on the streets, police still consider it vandalism and he's been cited and arrested several times. Most cops don't bother him, but others do. A few months ago, city officials ticketed a parent in Park Slope, because her daughter was using chalk to make a hop-scotch grid on the sidewalk. The cops backed off when the lady went to the newspapers with her complaint. After being held for 17 hours in the 76th precinct house, the Pacific Islander artist was released without being charged.
Ellis G's primary canvas is the street, but his work now appears in art shows across the country and he's been featured in just about every New York City newspaper and magazine.