Children's Books Come to Life on the City's Streets

Elbow-Toe turns children's literature into urban art. Elbow-Toe is an active New York City street artist who...

Elbow-Toe turns children's literature into urban art.

Elbow-Toe is an active New York City street artist who places large linocuts across lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Often these pieces are one-of-a-kind works that draw from literary sources and interact with the environment in which they're placed. Elbow-Toe walks the city identifying special places for his "people" to live, resulting in images that are powerful and as emotionally torn as their surrounding neighborhoods.

WOOSTER:Why did you choose the specific placement?

ELBOW-TOE: I have been particularly interested, with my past few linocuts, in creating whole scenes that work in space. In this piece her laundry line is tacked into a wall. I was driving around and came across a person who had done brick wall stencils, and it was placed so perfectly as to delineate a vertical plane off of the rest of the concrete wall. This gives the illusion, when the image is applied, that it is existing in an environment with depth. I also loved all the little bits of garbage that were scattered around because it blurred the line between the art and the environment.

W:What do you think your piece adds or subtracts to the community?

E-T: With my most recent work, I have been using animals and nature and making them at their life size scale. My aim is to have the work exist on the periphery of sight, so that most people-those who are getting from point A to point B-would not see it. And for those that do see it to have an "ah-ha" sort of experience. My aim with these pieces if for them to integrate with their environment.

W:Why did you choose the subject matter you did?

E-T: This summer, I became interested in using the mythology of children's literature as a point of departure. I have recontextualized the imagery to my own ends. I find the reference is generally recognizable enough that the viewer can at least be hooked in to hopefully explore the image more fully. On the surface, this particular image is very bright and sweet: lots of color, a cute little hedgehog woman doing her laundry. This is probably all that the casual observer would see in the piece. If you look deeper you begin to realize that the woman is homeless, that she lives in a box, that she is carting items like a hypodermic needle around, and that she has cleaned a pair of girl's panties. The image is loosely derived from a story called the "Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle" by Beatrix Potter. In the original story the girl loses some linens, I believe her handkerchiefs. In my version someone has symbolically lost their cherry (panties) and the homeless woman has dealt with it, cleaned things up. My symbolism is generally obtuse; for myself at least the piece has come to symbolize the the pitfalls of growing up too quickly. But I am happy for those that come across the image to see what they want in it.

W:What is inspiring to you now?

E-T: As I mentioned, I am interested in the mythology of children's literature. I have been researching stories from other cultures that I would like to play off of. I am also very keen on items from the antiquities collection at the Met. I have also been quite moved recently by Francis Bacon, just in his visceral display of inner strife.

To see more Elbow-Toe works, go here. To see more excellent street art, visit the Wooster Collective site.