A Colorful Collage: Bianca Romero - 2019 Get UP Awards

Written by Savannah James

A commissioned mural in Bedstuy, Brooklyn // Photo by @a_candela_photograph

Bianca Romero dances between many worlds; from creative director to curator to full-time artist, she is always on the brink of her next project. Though it may sound chaotic, these multitudinous roles actually fuel Romero’s fire. As a collage artist, she finds inspiration in the contrasting elements of her life, using them to create the visceral visual landscapes she’s known for.

Bianca Romero‘s mural at Lombardy Walls // Photo by @a_candela_photograph

The artist is ending a landmark 2019 with the ‘Beautiful Vandals’  group show at Van der Plas Gallery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. There, she’ll showcase her mixed-media collages alongside powerhouses like Al Diaz, Sinclair the Vandal, and Con$sumr. Just one year ago, Romero debuted her first outdoor wheatpaste mural of Erykah Badu for Underhill Murals in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, adding a new layer, so to speak, to her already varied practice.

 

Romero’s four-year career as a full-time artist is a manifestation of her childhood passions.  “Both my parents are designers and into art so it’s just been something I’ve always done,” Romero told UP. Her dad hails from Spain and her mom from Korea. Romero’s parents came to New York to pursue their own creative dreams as a graphic designer and a fashion designer respectively. Romero was born and raised in Manhattan, where art is inescapable. Between growing up in a multicultural household and living three blocks from Union Square, which she referred to as the “belly of the beast,” the artist’s upbringing exposed her to colliding worlds from an early age. This background ultimately serves as the impetus behind her collage style.

From the ‘Beautiful Vandals’ group show at Van Der Plas Gallery // Photo by @a_candela_photograph

Romero began working in event production and marketing after college, serving as a creative head on campaigns for Diaego Brands, the parent company of Guinness and Smirnoff. She also worked on creative branding for Livestream, a worldwide video streaming platform, where she eventually “started curating mural projects” after her colleagues discovered her artistic side. Through this new development, she befriended street artists, hanging out with them and providing assistance while they painted. “The more I watched them, the more I realized I could probably do it too,” Romero recounted.

From the ‘Beautiful Vandals’ group show at Van Der Plas Gallery // Photo by @a_candela_photograph

Pursuing her artistic impulses, she began experimenting with wheatpaste per a friend’s recommendation. “[I’d] never done murals before and was trying to figure out how to stay true to my collages,” she said, referring to her first encounters with the medium. She began pasting small character drawings, including one of a girl screaming with flowers coming from her mouth, which eventually became her signature figure. “I got kind of addicted, and just kept practicing, [wheatpasting and painting] on any wall I could find,” laughed Romero.  “It’s a lot of trial and error for me. My first few murals sucked; they just kept peeling.”

“I got kind of addicted, and just kept practicing, [wheatpasting and painting] on any wall I could find,” laughed Romero.  “It’s a lot of trial and error for me. My first few murals sucked; they just kept peeling.”

With her feet in both the business and art worlds, she began landing commissions for brands like EFFEN Vodka, The William Vale Hotel, and Brooklyn Beer Garden. “From 2018 to 2019 I really started focusing on commissioned murals, trying to market myself. You just have to figure out where your place is,” she said.

Bianca Romero‘s work hanging in a Brooklyn Beer Garden Exhibit // Photo by @t.k.m85

In a way, Romero’s work is a collage of her life laid out on canvas. She references advertising, pop culture, New York graffiti, and her multicultural upbringing through psychedelic color palettes and found images. Balancing figurative subjects with geometric patterns, Romero’s work is dimensional and alive. Each piece exists in its own world, and if you stare at it long enough, you become a part of it.

 

Romero hopes to strike a stronger balance between art and commerce in the coming year. “This year I started turning down a lot of offers,” she explained, due to the increase in brands hiring artists because they’re ‘trending.’ “I’ve had a lot of offers from bars and clubs, but I know that my work is just going to be sitting in the background, where you can’t see the colors or anything,” she explained.

A commissioned mural in Bedstuy, Brooklyn // Photo by @a_candela_photograph

Instagram has become a driving force supporting relationships between artists and brands, with a heavy focus on muralists due to the nature of their work– murals are approachable, accessible, and immersive. Although her work might serve as a backdrop for someone’s selfie, she wants its message to shine through nonetheless. “Instagram changed art a lot; murals became a lot more popular because of Instagram. Brands hire artists to paint for Instagram. You just have to adapt to what it is.”

A commissioned mural in Bedstuy, Brooklyn // Photo by @a_candela_photograph

That being said, the artist feels that her advertising experience has helped her navigate both the creative and business worlds.  “I try to focus on working with brands I like, and who will work with my style. If someone wants me to make something that I don’t think is a good idea, I try to compromise to find something that will work for both of us.”

That being said, the artist feels that her advertising experience has helped her navigate both the creative and business worlds.  “I try to focus on working with brands I like, and who will work with my style. If someone wants me to make something that I don’t think is a good idea, I try to compromise to find something that will work for both of us.”

One of Romero’s favorite projects of 2019 was curating and painting the Lombardy Walls in Greenpoint. “It was really cool to work with other artists I’ve always admired on this project,” Romero said. Those fellow muralists included Chris RWK, Marthalicia, Czr Prz, Jappy Lemon, Will Power, and Albertus Joseph. For the project, Romero painted a work on a main wall featuring all her signatures; feminine figures, explosive colors, and striking patterns situated together, resembling her collage work.

Bianca Romero‘s mural at Lombardy Walls // Photo by @a_candela_photograph

She was invited to curate the next edition of the walls and coordinate surrounding events. “Next year I’m hoping to expand it into a whole block party,” she said, transforming the otherwise barren street into an outdoor mural gallery.

From the ‘Beautiful Vandals’ group show at Van Der Plas Gallery // Photo by @a_candela_photograph

Romero also completed a massive 1,000 square foot mural, “Around the World in 60 Days,” for a liquor store. The mural “visualizes the world through liquor brands” as described on the artist’s website. Using wheatpaste, acrylic, and spray paint, the 25-panel mural exhibits Romero’s intricate hand through a myriad of textures and colors. “It was my biggest mural yet, and I made it all in my studio, and then had to transport it to the store, which was pretty crazy,” she said.

Bianca Romero working alongside OG Millie for EFFEN // Photo by @t.k.m85

Romero’s full-time art career has also allowed her to travel the world. Earlier this year, she painted a wall in Port Au Prince, Haiti for a friend’s AirBnB, right after a week of major protests. “I almost had to cancel the trip, but then I was like, ‘fuck it,’ and went, and it wasn’t even that bad,” she said, shrugging.

 

The mural is comprised of drums from around the world, signifying “unity through music” as written on her website. “It was amazing. Little kids were playing with the spray cans, because they’ve never seen them before,” she recalled.

Bianca Romero working at the EFFEN Vodka pop up in the East Village // Photo by @t.k.m85

Earlier this year she also completed commissions in San Antonio, as well as a mural in Wynwood for Art Basel 2018.  “The whole traveling thing just kind of snowballed in the past year,” she said. She plans to continue traveling, experiencing different street art scenes and determining how she can bring her style to new cities. “I just want to stay as true to myself as possible.”

“I just want to stay as true to myself as possible.”

Romero plans to travel more in 2020. She’s doing commissions in Chicago and LA next year, and she hopes to get to Europe at some point. “The whole traveling thing just kind of snowballed for me,” she said. Like the rest of her career, Romero is taking life as it comes to her. Grounded in her practice, new experiences manifest into the different textures and colors that make up her work. Oscar Wilde once said, “life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” For Romero, I find this to be true.


Savannah James is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, New York. After completing her bachelor’s degree in Art History at FIT, she felt called to pursue writing as a way of further exploring art and culture and its evolving relationship with society. She is interested in storytelling and the various ways life can be documented. Savannah is also a contributing writer for the Bushwick Daily and Bklyner.