Street Artist Paints Scenery Around Los Angeles' Homeless
There are two camps when it comes to anonymous street artist Skid Robot's work: those who think his altruistic pieces draw attention to homelessness, and those who think he's exploiting the homeless by making them the subjects of his artwork. And then there are those who fall somewhere in the middle, and one of those people is the artist himself.
Skid Robot (who remains anonymous as street art is, of course, illegal) draws dream bubbles on the walls behind sleeping or passed-out homeless people, and he fills those bubbles with what he imagines their fantasies might be—fancy cars, toys, booze, food or even simply, a real bed. He also draws scenes around encampments, painting tranquil woods behind tents or 2D bedrooms around mattresses on the streets. In an interview with Vice, he said he first felt "like a dick" using homeless people to make art. Then it occurred to him he could be doing more:
"So the next day, I went to the 99-cent store and bought snacks and toiletries and made care packages for these people. That way, when I do roll up, I have something to give them."
He told Vice that if someone is passed out, he doesn't ask for permission. However, when he wants to paint around someone who is awake, he will ask. He's had a few hostile responses, but in some cases, he is able to talk with them about their lives and occasionally honor some requests. He met one man who was also an artist who requested some art supplies, and Skid Robot was able to return to him and provide them. For a homeless man he calls 'Birdman,' he was able to fulfill his dream of eating lobster—something Birdman hadn't done in over 20 years.
There are some unexpected benefits to the art: in addition to raising awareness, Skid Robot says that some of his collaborators receive more money in daily donations when people stop to take a photo of the art. He says people are paying attention instead of just walking by. Skid Robot is currently raising money via GoFundMe so that he can bring his art and care packages to other cities across the country.