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Artists of La Crosse: Adem Faeth

The purpose of this project is to bring awareness to the art community, what artists stand for, their purpose, their mediums, about the artist themselves and most importantly to connect everyone to one another.

For my project, I will be creating a piece dedicated to the artist and their art. It is a piece that integrates the two together; The process of this involves me taking a portrait of the artist and then creating a double exposure of the artist with their art

In conclusion ~ Make art of the artist and their art

It's like art to the third power or art inception!

This is a fun and interactive way for other artists to meet one another or learn about eachother. I will be sharing a new artist weekly so please make sure to check back in to see the new featured artist.

as always~ Enjoy!


This Week's Feature

Artist name: Adem Faeth

Medium(s): Spray Paint / Roller Paint / Collage / Xacto Blade / Stencil / Whatever I can find at the reuse room.




When did you notice that you had a love for art?

As long as I can remember, I've always had an eye for detail and I would pick up on things most people overlook. I give a lot of credit to my Mom Lori, for my strong imagination and creativity. She would make up all these stories and read to me all the time. She encouraged me to write my own stories, which I would illustrate. A lot of my stories would involve war and one side pillaging the other. I was kind of military and gun obsessed but also very much into nature and outdoors. She would take all my toy guns away and then I’d chew my toast into the shape of a gun and use that to pretend. I damn near believed in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy until I was 16 because she was so elaborate with the things that she did. Such as leaving foot and hoof prints inside and out, sprinkling fairy dust (gold glitter) by the window, and leaving notes from said mythological figures. Our family also hosted travelers from around the world, many from different cultures. I think that all these things influenced me early on in a positive way. As I entered my teenage years, things became much more difficult. My Father was very emotionally abusive and started taking it out on me. But I did continue to get more into music, writing and watching horror movies. I still had these positive outlets in my life but I also picked up some bad coping mechanisms along the way. I was more interested in drinking and partying with my friends as an escape than doing anything else. I had very little boundaries and expectations from my parents and I was left unsupervised so I pretty much did what I wanted. I noticed my Sister Emily and my Uncle Bob were both sort of similar to me because they were into the arts as well. I had a hard time taking my Dad’s advice about just picking a trade job and going into it. So I graduated high school in 2000 and drifted around for a little bit and then my Mom talked me into joining the army. I was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division, 2nd Battalion of the 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment. Those experiences, although not all good, helped shape me. Things like self discipline, physical fitness and being good at standing in line for hours, have stuck with. But there were some things I had to unlearn too. Such as the us versus them mentality. At that age, I didn’t really comprehend the role our government had in the world and what the true history was. I got out of the army and began dabbling in experimental noise music, recording and live performance. I also worked with kids and adults with disability and behavior issues for ten years through a couple different organizations. Alcohol was still my go to and my comfort zone.

At about 26 or 27 I discovered painting. The graffiti and street art movements caught my attention and it quickly took over my life like a new love. It started small with hand drawn stickers and tags, then I started cutting stencils and wheat pasting posters. There was an evolution to it and I kept painting bigger. Every year I was on to another element of it. Quickly I fell in love with letters and the construction of them through calligraphy and fonts. My art has been in the street since I started and I have stayed pretty much anonymous. When I first started painting, I knew that it was very powerful but I didn’t know just how much. I continued to paint and drink into my late twenties and early thirties. Art and painting was still a hobby but I don’t think I had enough confidence or believed in myself enough to start doing it for other people. Around my middle 30’s, I came to a crossroad. I had to decide between alcohol and a healthy life. Luckily I had the support of my amazing girlfriend, Cathryn Dagendesh. She believed in me and my art more than I did. I had a lot of anger and frustration inside of me carried on from my childhood that I was wrestling with. I knew I wasn’t living up to my full potential and I was using alcohol to stay numb and not deal with my issues. August 22, 2017 was the last time I drank alcohol. A week later, Cathryn and I embarked on a 400 mile bicycle ride through the Wisconsin wilderness from La Crosse to the south shore of Lake Superior. We had all of our gear strapped to our bikes and we camped along the way. It was the truest sense of freedom that I had ever had. It was both amazing and difficult. But it gave me what I needed and got me outside of my comfort zone. It was very much a reset and detox from the alcohol I had hung onto for so long. I want to continue to learn about my love for art everyday. Because this art journey that I am on, is a journey of self discovery and we all should forever continue to learn and grow. These are the good ol’ days, the moments that we are living right now.

Are you originally from La Crosse? If not, where are you from and how long have you lived here?

Yes, I was born in La Crosse and grew up here and in La Crescent.

Growing up what were your major influences as an artist? Other artists, Life events?

My Mom definitely pushed me in the right direction. She always had me involved in various activities that gave me a taste of the different possibilities. She got me involved with art at the Pump House, boy’s choir at Viterbo, Cub Scouts and other things like that. We also traveled quite a bit. Notably in Mexico, Dominican Republic and throughout the United States. The monikers and paintings I would see on freight trains speeding past us while we were stopped at railroad crossings, always had me curious as to who was painting them and most importantly, what did it mean. Also movies have always been a big influence on me. I remember renting movies as a kid with my family and looking around at all the different movie box covers. I've always been drawn to that kind of visual art, a stylized word combined with an image. A lot of the music I got into was because I liked the album cover art.

What message do you want to share about your art?

I want to share how powerful art is and that it can change our lives for the better. Art saved my life. It gave me the confidence to believe in myself and change my life. Art gave me something to fall back on once I was able to break free from the control of alcohol. I always say the two pillars that keep me sane are art and fitness. Those two pillars kind of represent the mind and body. The message that I really want to share with people is to dream big and believe in themselves and their art. Art is a very loose term and it could be anything that you enjoy doing, working on cars, landscaping, poetry. The society that we live in makes it very easy for us to lose sight of our true selves and forget our passions because we are so wrapped up with trying to survive and pay bills. I think it's a basic human need to want to belong and be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Art is that outlet. When I was a kid, I just wanted to feel loved and accepted by my Father. But instead, I found that in art. If you don’t fit in, in other areas, art can be that place of understanding. I still struggle with anxiety and depression but I know how all it takes is one little act of kindness or one smile or hello and it can pull people out of the darkness. Makes me think about that John Prine song, “Hello in there”.

What do you stand for as an artist?

What I stand for as an artist is what I stand for as a human. I stand for love and positivity. I stand for empowerment and preservation of ourselves and the environment. I stand for forgiveness because I know I’ve needed a lot of it. I stand for compassion and understanding. I stand for patience and self discipline. I stand for listening. I feel like talk is cheap and listening is rare nowadays. I think that a lot of the problems in the world are caused by miscommunication and fear of the unknown. So if we would all listen to each other more, especially those that we disagree with, it would help us understand each other. I also think we need to be more tolerant of other people’s cultures and ways of life, as long as no one is being hurt. Even if it doesn’t make sense to us. On that same note, mind your own damn business what Sally Sue is doing down the street.

What is your process or headspace you get into while creating new pieces?

I look and see what colors I have laying around and then I usually have to go get more black spray paint. I look through all my reference photos and screenshots and figure out a couple ideas in my head. Such as a stylized word and character/image combination. I figure out what color scheme will work and I organize everything that I will need. Water, snacks, extra socks (in case my feet get wet or cold), paint, respirator, etc. Then I go to the location where I want to paint. Now the surface, wall size and shape really dictates what I will paint. The wall speaks to me. I usually have a plan A and a plan B. If the wall is more horizontal than vertical I may have to change the composition or switch ideas. The hardest part is the sketch. Once I get that down, filling it in and shading is easy.

When I’m going to create and cut a new stencil I start with a photo reference. It may be one of my photos or I may find it somewhere else. Then I decide how many layers and how big it will be. The more layers, the more detail. I print the image out on an oversized printer if needed. Then I glue the image to whatever I will make the stencil out of, most of the time its poster board. Once I have the image secured to the poster board I take a red marker and draw a bunch of squiggly lines all over the image to make bridges and connect all the pieces. So when I cut the image out, it will all stay together. It can be very therapeutic and relaxing to zone in and cut stencils.

Stickers and stencils are really the roots of my art and have been my primary medium since I began around 2007 or 08. I usually don’t make vinyl stickers. I draw, stencil or slop them onto adhesive backed paper. I try to embrace nature as much as I can. I like to see them age and deteriorate out in the field. Nothing is permanent, especially in the graffiti world. Let's say I put up 100 stickers. A quarter will get buffed, another quarter will last a few days. Some will last a few years. But I like to see what happens to them outside. Someone may come by and try to remove it but I like it when it looks altered, rough and partially torn off. Street art and graffiti is a collective art because the street belongs to the people and nature. Even the people buffing the art, whether they like it or not, are taking part in it. I kind of feel like I’m sending out signals in the street. Sometimes people answer back, sometimes they don’t. Street art is becoming trendy which I think can be good because it could open the door to the art world for people that may not be as advantaged. You don’t need a fancy degree or website or have a million followers. You can just be, yourself. It is folk art. I love seeing new people getting involved with it. Usually it’s just a phase. But if it sparks creativity in a person even for one day, I’m happy.

What does the piece you chose for this project mean to you? Why did you choose this one vs other pieces you have created?

This piece represents my transition from the graffiti world to the legal art world. Not that I will stop painting graffiti and working in the street but it means now I'm making a living at it. It's all about priorities and I had to focus on healing emotionally before I could take on projects for other people.

I didn't actually have a sketch down for this piece and I didnt know how it would look when it was finished. I had a rough idea in my head and I kind of just let it happen. But I am very happy with how it turned out. Sometimes when I paint without an end result in mind, I go off of a checklist instead. Such as: fade, drips, words, character, drop shadow, etc.

Thank you!


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