LAist Interview: Meet Street Fartist (Tom) Hanksy

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Tom Hanks + Banksy = Hanksy. (Screenprint image courtesy of Gallery1988)

As you may have heard—or seen—the New York-based street "fartest" Hanksy is in town prepping for his West Coast debut show that opens at Gallery1988 tomorrow night (May 24). The secretive artist, who got his start superimposing Tom Hanks' face on Banksy-inspired creations, has expanded his penchant for wordplay and punnery, poking fun of celebs and pop culture.

The Gallery1988 show How the West was Pun features original paintings, giclee prints, his first screenprints, wall murals and, yes, toilet seats. If you get there early enough, the first 25 people in line get a free, customized VHS tape of a Tom Hanks classic film straight from Hanksy's collection.

LAist had a chance to conduct an email interview with Hanksy, and we asked about his fav Tom Hanks film and East vs. West Coast street art, among other things:

LAist: Name your top five Tom Hanks movies. Which one inspired you to make him your muse?
Hanksy: Asking me to pick my top five T. Hanks films is like asking me to choose between a few handfuls of adorably dorky kids with a penchant for late 80s “ah shuck” moments and bizarre happenings. It’s hard and difficult. I’m sure its not something healthy to do. But if I must, in no particular order, the list goes like this: The Money Pit, The Burbs, Joe Versus the Volcano, Big, and Turner & Hooch.

I don’t know if my motivation came from one specific movie. If one were able to boil down the VHS versions of all five of these flicks and make one magical young plastic Tom elixir, then that’d be the gasoline to my fire. 

LAist: How did you get your start in art/street art? Did you have any formal art training?
Hanksy: I’ve never had any formal art training aside from the normal elementary K-12 variation. I think that tends to show a bit. There exists a certain rawness and element of inexperience in my work. It’s either endearing or completely pathetic. I haven’t decided which just yet. 

Be it paper or otherwise, I was always doodling on one surface or another. It wasn’t until I decided to stop pursuing higher education that I realized how creative I can be. It really is amazing how well the US education system, from kid to kidult, can alter one’s expressive interests. The public academic world can either act as hero or villain. In the case of my middle-class Midwestern upbringing, it definitely took on the role of suppressor. Thankfully, my parents fostered a creative home life. So the artistic flame that is currently burning brighter than ever, never stopped glowing for good.

LAist: You've already created art on the streets of Hollywood / NYC and even placed your art on the White House lawn for the Easter Egg roll. Is there a place that you'd really like to see your work next?
Hanksy: After the show in Los Angeles closes, I’ll be hopping a bit around the US. Quick one or two day trips here and there. There is possibly an overseas trip coming in late summer. It’ll likely be another English speaking country. No offense to other tongues, but english is my native language. If wordplay is to be appreciated, it must be understood.  

What do you think are the differences between East Coast / West Coast street art, if any?
Hanksy: Specifically speaking between NYC and LA, it’s the sheer amount of available walls. New York is very restricted when it comes to space both vertical and horizontal. On the other hand, LA seems to have an endless amount of space and concrete. Though the walls are constantly being painted on and over, this is both a good and bad thing. In a tight and restricted area, the cream will always rise to the top. If one were to allow the spilled milk to just flow and flow, more surface will eventually get coated, but it’ll eventually thin out. But damn, LA does have some great active artists. 

Why all the secrecy to your identity a la Banksy?
Hanksy: Chalk it up to one part illegal street artist and another to the fact that it’s more fun being anonymous. There’s a veil of secrecy that comes along with being unknown. It’s like my own personal Cloak of Invisibility and I’m freaking Harry Potter slipping and sliding through the urban internet jungle. 

LAist: Where do you hang in LA besides In-N-Out? Find any go-to spots?
Hanksy: I’ve been hanging out at that big blue Scientology Castle quite a bit. As you mentioned, I’ve been eating way too much fast food and those aliens tend to have some really good snacks. Mad respect to a place that offers good snacks. Because I love snacks.

How the West was Pun opens at Gallery1988 West (7308 Melrose Ave.) tomorrow, May 24, with a reception from 7-10 pm. The show runs through June 15. Hanksy may or may not be in attendance. You never know.