Home Interviews Interview: Street Artist Pigeon
Interview: Street Artist Pigeon


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02/01/13
 - Interview with street artist Pigeon.

Dirty Awesome: Who are you and what do you do?

Pigeon: My name is Pigeon and I’m a street artist and an activist. I also write, perform and produce songs under the name of Nelo Pidgin, and try to operate a personal life and raise a child under the name of
Orson Horchler. I pay the bills running a carpentry business.

Dirty Awesome: When did you start doing art in Bangor?

Pigeon: I started putting art up on the walls, doors and bridges of Bangor on July 27, 2011

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Dirty Awesome:
Where are you from?

Pigeon: Oh that’s complicated… Born in Philly. First birthday in Bar Harbor. Lived in Ellsworth until I was 4 at which point my Mom got serious cabin fever or something so she took me, left my Dad and brothers behind and went back to France (though she was born in Morocco. I told you it’s complicated…) So I grew up in a suburb of Paris that was more or less what you would call an inner city in the US. There were gangs and racial tension. But there were no guns so people didn't die too often. You could tell how much fighting experience one had by the number of scars or a broken nose so there weren’t too many surprises, like some baby face dude pulling a gun on you. Me I just did a couple trips to the hospital for being a loud mouth and not putting up with the good old dominance strategies of gang/mafia culture that poison the world anywhere you find people who want power but who arent strong enough to stand on their own 2 feet… Anyway, there was nothing to do there. They tried to open a movie theatre 15 minutes from where we lived and within a week it got burned down cause they wouldn’t let this kid in without paying so the next day his brother’s gang came over and lit it up. There was less to do there than in Lincoln.

Then, I came back to the US right after high school to dodge the draft and get to know my dad who had stayed in Ellsworth. Since then I have also lived in New Orleans and then Lo
ísaida, NYC. That place stole my heart. Sorry Bangor. But you can still have my body... Between the place I grew up in France and feeling stuck in Maine for family reasons, I realized at some point that I spent most of my life living in places where I felt alienated. That’s when I decided to stop bitching about it and to tackle the problem head on. And that’s why I started doing street art.

Dirty Awesome: Tell us about your shirts.

Pigeon: Well the first shirts I did were just iron-ons with the I <3 BGR Pigeon. I used to have contests on my Facebook page. I would announce how many new pastes I put up on any given night but not say where. The first person to post phone pics of all of them would win a T-shirt. So of course local living-legend William Young was the first to get a Tshirt because he’s the man. We didn't know each other so I stalked him online, found out where he worked and dropped it off at his workplace.

Then, I did the infamous Ghettobetters tshirt. A spoof off the Leadbetters store right across from where I live. Anything can happen there. It’s a trip. If you get one, make sure you walk in there wearing it when the owner is behind the counter… By the way, the only rule I have about mixing my wheatpaste when working in Bangor is that the flour has to come from Ghettobetters.

I think that the real ethical dimension of street art is that if it is well done it takes into account where it is made and takes responsibility for were it is placed. That’s what makes it radically different from the monster fine art has become. That’s a philosophy I wanted to apply to making Pigeon Gear as well. I really wanted to create some apparel that was really specific to where I would be selling it and Bangor didn’t have that yet. I did the I <3 BGR to express Bangor pride and the Ghettobetters because I liked the inside joke aspect of it. I mean you wear that shirt because you know what it means in Bangor vernacular and other people will recognize it on the street or at a party only if they are also part of the community. My shirts are so local that when Metropolitan Soul wanted to carry my shirts at their Orono shop, we couldn’t do it because the designs would be meaningless to people living even just 10 miles away!

Now my shirts are silkscreened at Daidala Studios in downtown Bangor and they do a killer job. I am really proud of our last creation: the RISE! T-shirt. It represents a mural of the same title, one version of which I put on the side of the Central Street Farmhouse in Bangor and another on Martin Luther King Boulevard in Harlem last week. The mural depicts a flock of pigeons chasing an egg-stealing eagle. A true scene you’ll see over Pickering square in the spring.

The Rock & Art Shop and Central Street Farmhouse carry my shirts. I am presently working with Harlem Underground to get them to sell my RISE! Shirts as well as an I <3 Harlem Pigeon-shirt. They are a small shop on 125
th street, which only carries Harlem specific apparel.

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Dirty Awesome:
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Pigeon: In 5 years, I'll be hopping on planes to work on murals around the world and working on establishing a school in the Congo to rehabilitate child soldiers through the arts.

Dirty Awesome: How long do you think it will take Bangor to become as large as Portland?

Pigeon: It's really not that relevant. Its not about the actual numbers of residents, it’s about the culture of the place. Portland has 65,000 inhabitants I think and Bangor and Brewer combined have close to 45,000. If people got off their asses, turned off the TV, went out after work and stopped fighting the increase of culture and diversity of the city, Bangor would seem just as large as Portland.

I've been to seaside towns in Cameroon that have just a few thousand inhabitants and yet they seemed like metropolis compared to Bangor. Because at night everybody rushes out into the streets to meet each other, play music together, argue, hit on each other’s sisters… foosball tables back to back on the sidewalk. We just need more of a street culture. NYC didn’t rise to the top of world influential cities because of it’s size but because it has always had amazing street culture and was proud of it. In Bangor, barriers to utilizing our downtown like its our living room need to be broken down.

Kids need to be allowed to skateboard on the street and in plazas. We need to teach them young that downtown is the place to be, where you can feel free and surround yourself with cool people, not the fucking mall. I hang out with my 7-year old all over downtown, for hours. He gets to meet everybody in the community, every business in town has a drawing of his on the wall pretty much. He knows that Pickering square is the place to ride his bike because we get to chat with the little old people from the Freezes building and he knows that Daddy likes to go to Giacomo’s where he might run into one of his favorite ladies while he can run into one of his friends and that’s what life is all about. People need to realize that they are going to die and that the best thing about being on this planet is other people.

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Dirty Awesome:
If you could change one thing about Bangor, what would it be?

Pigeon: Well, since I don’t think banning the use of televisions after 5pm is realistic, I want to see the ban on open containers in public areas lifted. And not just around bars where the cool kids spend $7 on a drink, but more than anything, changing municipal law 231-7 to allow the consumption of alcohol in parks. I’ve worked in a homeless shelter and have slept in a couple, so I know all about the necessity of keeping these places absolutely drug and alcohol free for all the folks tying to stay clean. So where else are homeless people going to drink? I find it outrageous and demeaning they have to hide in the bushes to share a bottle of High Life, like they were 13 year-olds having their first cigarette. The homeless belong in this city as much as you and me. And if anybody think that if they had a couple bucks left to their name they wouldn’t spend it on a 40, they are fooling themselves and need to go out and do some serious living or they going to die stupid.

But I’m saying this for everybody. People need to start thinking about their downtown as an extension of their living room. Pigeon is all about drinking in the park on your day off. A public park is a perfect place to enjoy a bottle of wine on a sunny day, on a blanket, with some chocolate, a couple oranges and DirtyAwesome’s 01/09/13 Girl of the Day.

Dirty Awesome: What is Bangor's best asset?

Pigeon: The fact that people are so genuine. I hate posturing. In Bangor nobody is pretending to be anything. People don’t spend too much time worrying about being hip or talking ab
out what they’re going to do. But there are people, like the folks at KahBang among many others, working their asses off and making shit happen. That makes me proud to live in Bangor.

I did my “Wheat pasting in the Venice of the North” video of me wheat pasting on the canals off a canoe with my friend John Picone. I barely knew him at the time and he had contacted me saying hey me and my kids like your work, lets go canoeing sometime. He’s just a genuine down to earth yet super smart guy who took a break from being a surgeon to stay at home with his kids. Not some faker. And our video got posted on Brooklyn Street Art, one of the best Street Art blogs in the world. I believe it’s because what we did was so unique compared to a lot of what’s going on in the world of street art.

If I had to work in Portland or only worked in NYC, I’d be in some fake-ass social circle of hipsters who do street art because they think its cool or something. Here I have little old ladies coming to my studio to tell me they dig my stuff. And that’s what street art should be all about: breaking the barriers between art and the people. So in a way, because of that genuine quality of Bangorians, I feel like I am able to do street art that is more authentic, more true to its basic philosophy.

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Dirty Awesome:
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?

Pigeon: My greatest accomplishment? By getting people to go out into the street to look for my work and connect about something that had to with their environment, something fun and provocative, I think I created a phenomenon that helped people further their community ties and feel more empowered about their relationship to their urban environment. I saw it at my Studio Opening in November: all these people gathered there, from all ages, all social classes, people who may have never talked to each other out on the street, hanging out, talking loud, drinking wine and Allen’s Coffee Brandy and partying together for 10 and a half hours straight! …while I was giving out hugs and laying down the beats. The oxytocin was flowing! I live for that shit. It’s the kind of Sesame street style urban idealism I ascribe to. That’s what drives me. And I feel like I helped create some of that here in Bangor.

Dirty Awesome: What is your next project?

Pigeon: Hooking up with DirtyAwesome’s 01/09/13 Girl of the Day. Oh, sorry… It’s just that she’s got that guilty look. I like that. No, seriously, I am working on a lot of projects, doing the Light Ekphrastic thing (an online zine that put an artist and a poet together and get them to respond to their work and then publish the exchange); creating unique Pigeon art pieces for the Eastern Maine AIDS Network’s Red Ribbon ball and Auction on February 9
th; coordinating an event for Black Bear Skateboard Association where we are getting artists to put their own unique designs on skateboards that we are going to auction off to raise funds for the Orono Skatepark… and lots more. The only way Pigeon works is hard. But the thing I am most exited about is my application to Living Walls Atlanta 2013. 

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-Brought to you by Robert Thorn.