Street artist Deuce 7: I absolutely hate Shepard Fairey

Deuce 7 is a different breed of gallery artist. He's too busy to get his picture taken, and he'd rather hop trains across the West. Or head to Vancouver to meet women, or spend an afternoon getting chased around San Francisco by obese pimps or drop DMT in the Mojave desert -- all in a week's time.

Our local South Side kid -- who listens to '90s rap, Norwegian black metal, and outlaw country while he creates -- has gained a national following over the years for his bright, detailed work that demands attention on a canvas or the side of a bridge. He's done collaborations with local poster and design house Burlesque, and could be working with rapper Aesop Rock in the future. Still he remains camera-shy to avoid obnoxious art groupies and law enforcement.

Deuce 7 spends most of his days on the rails or working out of Northern California, but for now he's sitting outside an Uptown coffee shop. While meeting with Gimme Noise, he has a backpack full of Miller High Life, and he finishes a can every five minutes. A catfish is tattooed swimming around his neck, and the rest of his body is marked up from the hard life of being a trainspotter and street artist. Ahead of his curated Art-A-Whirl show at Abstracted Gallery -- its title, "It Was All a Dream," recalls the opening line of Notorious B.I.G's "Juicy" -- we discuss his life, his inspiration, and his fascination with trains.

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Duece 7

When did you discover that you could get your work off the street and into galleries?

Back in 2005 or 2006. I knew I wouldn't survive in the society's working world so I had a plan to wreck the streets with characters that were influenced by my all-night weed-smoking sessions, the stuff I was putting up was getting a lot of attention and hype. After my first mushroom trip, I drifted around all night and came home to a sunrise and cleaner lines and I started out banging out hella crazy shit. Later I got hooked up with the late Suzy Greenberg of SooVac Gallery in Minneapolis and she sold all my drawings and paintings. It's been a journey ever since.

Why the name Deuce 7?

I took the 27 from the BNSF 6127, a locomotive considered a green dinosaur that was amazing because of its amazing weathered look and age. I also took notice how the number looked and I started to use that to sign my pieces. In 2006, out in Seattle, a friend of mine suggested I spell out Deuce 7 so I did and still do.
Photo by Tom Domres
How did you start? Did you run with a certain crew? Do you remember your first piece or tag?

I remember writing on stuff at school. I got into it through snowboarding and trains. I grew up next to three different mainlines and noticed graffiti popping up in the '90s on the 29th St Depression Line, also known as Milwaukee Roads Pacific Extension line out to the PNW. It was basic instinct to write stuff I guess in my situation, the rush, the chase and the art of it all was attractive to me.

What kinds of medium or experimentation do you like working with?

I prefer using I-Shot sign paint because of its durability and it stays on the brush longer than an acrylic or oil paints, making it faster to create longer lines. I am also getting into shading and using pencil on very old railroad paper that was used for track occupancy warrants, switch-lists, and whatnot.

I would like to do more dark stuff, but people are not really into it. So I just do what I do. I basically do stuff I like: Native culture, birds, deserts, and nature. Whatever. Stuff I can relate too and want to bring out. I have a lot of freedom with lots of my commissions.
Duece 7
What type of soundtrack inspires you to do work?

A lot of '90s rap -- down South shit like Project Pat, UGK, and stuff all the way to Norwegian Black Metal to Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash. It's all over the place with me.

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