Logan Hicks and Lori Zimmer: An Artful Pairing

Written by J. Scott Orr

Photography by Daryl-Ann Saunders and courtesy of Lori Zimmer, Logan Hicks

He’s a world-renowned artist who uses stencils and spray paint to create intricate, photorealistic, images of buildings, people and other things. She’s the author of four books, including a pair of delightfully offbeat guidebooks to hidden art in New York and Paris. They share a home and studio space in East Williamsburg as well as an international, trans-media artistic vision shaped over decades of individual experience and nearly a decade as a couple.

Together, Lori Zimmer and Logan Hicks are the real-life embodiment of New York City’s art underground, a pair of bohemian creatives who spend their days making art, spreading art, consuming art and, generally, being art. And now, as if they need to do something else in tandem, they both have new books out.

Hicks, famous for his pioneering stencil work including a 2016 mural on the venerable Bowery Wall in lower Manhattan and street art in the Wynwood section of Miami, has released a stunning book of photographs shot during the COVID pandemic lockdown titled Still New York: A Forced Slumber in the City that Never Sleeps.

Zimmer’s latest work is Art Hiding in Paris: An Illustrated Guide to the Secret Masterpieces of the City of Lights, a follow-up to her well-received 2020 work Art Hiding in New York: An Illustrated Guide to the City’s Secret Masterpieces.

The two decided to twin their destinies just over nine years ago. Though they knew each other, they became closer in 2014 when Zimmer was curating a booth at Scope Art Show and Hicks had a solo show the same day. They met in the Anchor Inn, a divey neighborhood bar just a few blocks from their current studio in East Williamsburg, to plan a joint after-party.

Photo by Daryl-Ann Saunders

“Beer is why we became a couple.” – Lori Zimmer

“Beer is why we became a couple,” Zimmer joked during an interview with UP Magazine in their shared studio space in one of those converted industrial buildings in the East Williamsburg-Bushwick area. “He told me I called him the next day and that was the reason why we started dating,” she added. That they both existed in the art world, but in different spheres, was an important part of the calculus for both.

“I didn’t want to date another artist, but I wanted someone who understood the art world.” – Logan Hicks

“I didn’t want to date another artist, but I wanted someone who understood the art world,” Hicks said. “She’s an art writer and curator, so while we speak the same language, we’re not in competition. That makes for a healthier relationship. If your work life is really sucking and you’re not selling anything and your partner is selling a lot and their art is doing great, you’re happy for the other person, but on the other hand you’re thinking ‘I wish it was me.’”

Zimmer said she bridled, at first, at being so closely identified with Hicks who was more established in the art world when the two got together. “I did struggle for a while when people referred to me as Logan Hicks’ girlfriend. That’s just not cool. It’s ridiculous. Do you help each other? Yeah, you’re a couple, but you’re still separate individuals,” she said.

When the two met, Zimmer, who is from Buffalo and studied at FIT in New York, was writing and curating pop ups. Her first two books, The Art of Cardboard: Big Ideas for Creativity, Collaboration, Story Telling, and Reuse and The Art of Spray Paint: Inspirations and Techniques from Masters of Aerosol, were yet to be published. Like many artists, Zimmer’s writing career did not take off until an unexpected event forced her to concentrate on it full time.

Photo by Daryl-Ann Saunders

“I got fired from my gallery job and had no purpose, so I was wandering New York.” – Lori Zimmer

“I got fired from my gallery job and had no purpose, so I was wandering New York and I started noticing all this art that I never noticed before. So I created a spreadsheet to keep track of it and I started a blog called Art Nerd New York,” she said.

“Everyday I would post about a sculpture, or a place where Warhol lived, or a painting in a lobby of an office building that I noticed, but I never knew how to monetize a blog. I retired it because it was too much work,” she added

Later, Zimmer went to visit her friend, Chicago-based artist Maria Krasinski, who was living in Tbilisi. It was there that the two decided to work together on Art Hiding in New York. On the strength of their draft, the pair were signed by agent Lindsay Edgecombe and the book sold within two months.

Since Hicks did so much business in Paris, he and Zimmer had spent a lot of time there including an extended stay during the pandemic. Krasinski joined them there and she and Zimmer began work on their next book, the just released Art Hiding in Paris

One of Zimmer’s favorite Parisian discoveries is a mural by Henri Mahé in the Grand Rex cinema. When the theater was closed during the pandemic, renovation work revealed that a clown depicted in the mural was actually an image of actor Charlie Chaplin. His face had been painted over by the Nazi’s during the occupation because of Chaplin’s 1940 film The Great Dictator, which openly mocked Hitler.

Meanwhile, Hicks, who studied art at the Maryland Institute College of Art, was already an established commodity when he met Zimmer, having honed his craft first as a screen printer in Baltimore then as a stencil artist in California.

Photo by Daryl-Ann Saunders

“The California way of doing things with art seemed more relevant to me.”  – Logan Hicks

“In Baltimore in 1996 I had Shepard Fairey out and he showed with me. The California way of doing things with art seemed more relevant to me. They had the graffiti-hot-rod-skateboard world, so I packed up everything in 1999 and moved to San Diego to do art,” Hicks said.

The timing could not have been better, since Hicks’ arrival coincided with a revolution in the world of stencil art that was driven largely by the emergence of Banksy. Hicks and his colleagues found themselves in demand in cities around the world, including tours sponsored by K-Swiss, the California-based sneaker giant. 

“I didn’t really love living in California, but for business it was great. Everyone was young and hungry,” Hicks said. “It was very organic, no one even knew that we were climbing,” he said. 

Eventually, though, that scene died down and Hicks moved his practice to New York. When the pandemic shut everything down, Hicks found himself roaming the city’s empty streets taking night-time photographs that could never be captured when the city was its usual crowded self.

Photo by Daryl-Ann Saunders

“New York always sells. When it was happening, I knew that it was a special time.”  – Logan Hicks 

“New York always sells. When it was happening, I knew that it was a special time,” Hicks said. “Lori and I both enjoy the history of the city, so I began making a list of places to go and things to see. It was pretty early in 2020 when the city was really empty,” he added.

“All my paintings start with photos, so I wasn’t new to photography. When the pandemic struck, I began shooting these pictures and offering them for sale. Within a couple of months I had sold 400 photos,” he said.

One of Hick’s favorite shots captured not only the city’s silent beauty, but also the circumstances the artist found himself in. It was around 4:30 a.m. and the rain had let up as Hicks drove along Central Park West near 101st Street. He stopped his car in the middle of the street, left it running, set up his tripod and began to shoot, something he could never have done had it not been for the shut down.

Hicks saw the shuttered city as more an opportunity than a problem: “When COVID-19 shut down New York City, Logan Hicks was presented with a surreal circumstance; a desolate city that was his oeuvre of paintings came to life,” said the forward to his book, which, not surprisingly, was written by Zimmer.

This kind of teamwork certainly contributes to the strength of their relationship; that and the fact that they’re both driven, productive and successful enough to do art full time.

Photo by Daryl-Ann Saunders

“It is an unconventional lifestyle.” – Lori Zimmer

“It is an unconventional lifestyle, but if one of us had a 9-to-5 we couldn’t live the way we do. We both can travel because we’re not tied to a job somewhere. We both are interested in the same kind of things, like seeing the world together. We’re both able to work from wherever, so that makes it work for us,” Zimmer said.

“It’s kind of a measure of success to not have to have a real job and still be able to pay the bills,” Zimmer said. “And without family money or a trust fund,” Hicks added. So, yes, they do actually finish each other’s sentences.

Scott Orr is a career writer, editor and a recovering political journalist. He is publisher of the East Village art magazine B Scene Zine.

Instagram: @bscenezine

Website: bscenezine.com 

Daryl-Ann Saunders is a commercial and fine art photographer (portrait, documentary, street art culture, 1980s NYC punk archive, long-term projects). Her work is exhibited regularly and she is the recipient of numerous grants (Brooklyn Arts Council, NEA) for her community-based photo projects.

Instagram: @DA_Saunders

Projects: linktree/DA_Saunders