Life flows like a river, and all rivers flow until they reach their inevitable destination. Along the way, the course of each river is determined by its environment, bending according to its will. But the environment is also affected, cut into and nourished by the steadfastness of the river’s course. Ultimately this is what gives each river – each life – its own uniqueness, its own glory and pitfalls. The purpose behind the work of Los Angeles based street and fine artist Life After Death is to celebrate what makes each life unique. The triumphs and traumas in our lives are the bends in our rivers, granting us our essence, and what we give back to the world is what we’re remembered by. Remembering someone long after their gone, celebrating their legacy, can be a painful and melancholic thing to do; but it’s necessary to recognize where we came from to go on living, and it began by Life After Death celebrating someone he loved dearly.
“I call myself Life After Death because my mother was murdered when I was fifteen years old. The meaning of that name was not in a supernatural way, I was thinking of it in terms of people who are still alive after dealing with a loss,” Life After Death was stoic when describing his initial concept, “because lives go on after death. It’s not the person who’s died that’s suffering anymore, it’s the people who loved them that are still suffering. Some of my first pieces were of my mother and that’s all I needed to do. It was something that brought me closer to her and kept her memory alive.”
“It’s not the person who’s died that’s suffering anymore, it’s the people who loved them that are still suffering. Some of my first pieces were of my mother and that’s all I needed to do. It was something that brought me closer to her and kept her memory alive.”
Icons comprise an integral part of our culture, and they have for some time. From ancient religions to contemporary movie stars, being an Icon goes far beyond celebrity. Icons are people whose achievements and sacrifices have made them worthy of veneration, representing our values and bringing meaning and standards to our culture. When it comes to the world of graffiti and street art, iconography forms the foundation of the artform. During its genesis, it was someone’s name written extravagantly that garnered fame, granting that person icon status, and although that’s remained, it’s blossomed into so much more. Today stenciling and muralism can be found in almost every major city around the world, each piece resembling something significant, even if it’s just bringing beauty to a street corner. Abstraction is rarely found, but poignancy is abundant, and Life After Death emphasizes this by painting people who have played an important role in our lives.
“I think my first couple pieces were really based around that theme, that we all lose people, we all feel that type of suffering,” Life After Death gave examples along the way, “another one of the first pieces I had done was on JonBenet Ramsey. She was the perfect example of a death that everyone recognized there was no solution for. I used her as a symbol of innocence lost, and the incredible strength it takes to move on from something like that. We all have that emotional connection there, and with Dual Diagnosis we show that we all share similar aspects of being human, being alive and losing the people we love. I try to find some peace around that.”
Somewhere in Los Angeles, Dave Navarro, best known as the lead guitarist for the legendary rock band Jane’s Addiction, resides in a home that’s become a piece of art in and of itself. He’s become an avid art collector since the success of Jane’s Addiction, acquiring a substantial number of originals and rarities from the many masters of modern art. But it’s what’s painted on his walls, not what hangs on them, that exemplifies a true passion.
“If I’m remembering correctly, it all started about four years ago. I’m an art collector, I have been since the 90’s. I started hanging out with a bunch of local street artists because I was having them do work in my home. If you look over here,” he said as he gave me a small tour of some of his collection, mainly consisting of original prints, tags, and murals that have been painted on his walls, “there’s an Al Diaz, and then Cornbread did that. You can see Chaz and the infamous Chaka. I reached out to all my friends and they’d come over and hit my house.”
The renegade style of art has always fascinated Navarro. It’s easy to see when you look at the content and trajectory of Jane’s Addiction, which was undoubtedly influenced by the punk and street aesthetics that were being popularized in the early 80’s during the economic crisis of the Reagan administration, as well as the not-so-distant hippie counterculture of the 60’s. Rebellious art had been extremely prevalent in the era he grew up in, undoubtedly shaping a young Navarro the become what he is. When it comes to street art, he told me he had recalled seeing Robbie Conal’s “Contradiction” poster featuring Ronald Reagan in the 80’s, and this had informed him on just how influential this type of art could be. He had witnessed many of graffiti and street art’s legends in their heyday, and had grown up admiring them.
“Since the 80’s, I’ve been watching the streets. That’s when you had Richard Hamilton, the SAMO duo, Keith Haring, and all these people doing great work. I remember that shit because I was in my 20’s. I watched it happen globally, because I was in different cities and different countries any given day touring with Jane’s Addiction,” witnessing the rise of graffiti and street art had a lasting impact on Navarro, “I didn’t just decide to go out and try this, I was inspired and influenced by a lot of artists around LA and out in New York.”
Navarro was hailed by Henry Rollins as “one of the last great guitarists,” a fitting title indeed. But as he’s grown older, he’s had to accommodate the success of a music career. From a young age he’s been constantly travelling, practicing, collaborating, and enduring the public spotlight, all on top of what we would call the struggles of modern life. He’s overcome drug addiction, had to manage with the loss of loved ones, and had his own bouts of mental health issues. Fame and fortune are desired by most of us, but it can be a lonely life to lead. The pressure one feels is seen but often not understood, leading to an exacerbation of life’s problems. Now in his fifties, having lived through the rockstar life, Navarro feels the urge to express himself now more than ever. He described his decision to begin as a street artist:
“When I was a kid, my dad worked in an advertising agency. I grew up at these drafting tables with exacto blades and all these other tools I was taught to use at six years old. It was like, being an art collector, being a big fan of street art, and being an artist myself, my decision came from a combination of all these things,” he elaborated on the catharsis he felt being on his own on the street, “after being in bands for so long, which is a very collaborative effort that I love, it was nice to have an opportunity to express myself on a singular level.”