Venice Beach – On an overcast day in June, mixed media artist Flewnt Sevens and I are set to meet on the corner of Windward and Pacific. Since the only contact that Flewnt and I had was by email, my appearance came as a surprise to the artist, who later told me he was used to “white boys” calling for interviews. Flewnt’s patrons rarely involved the Black community. He feels the local Black community is not easily as impressed by his art as his average buyers are, “They look at it and think I can do it, I love that, I rather them go out and try and think that they can do it versus someone who will buy a piece of this street art to make my house look cool.” As street art seemingly continues to become more accepted as “legitimate” art, Flewnt’s foundation is deeply rooted in the graffiti aesthetic. “Graffiti is love of fonts -I got into this art because I was fueled by graffiti, I began tagging – I was a tagger, to let the world know that I was here.”
Flewnt, tall in stature, usually rocks all black, from his long sleeve button up shirt and black Dickies covered in sporadic bits of paint to a black fedora paired with a black fingerless glove on his left hand. “This used to be brand spanking new, but I had a feeling one day to just paint in it.” Flewnt’s style can be attributed to his overall philosophy of keeping his aesthetic organic by using objects that surround him every day in his work.
To sell his work Flewnt’s main base of operation is the Venice boardwalk. Surrounded by other artists who pop up shop along the boardwalk, everyday he is met by tourists and locals. While other artists may worry about the risk of being so open and accessible with their work to the possibility being of copied; as a veteran in Los Angeles, that is no longer a concern of Flewnt’s. While he’s not claiming to be the originator of the old English style that permeates the scene, he is aware that it is a style that is widely copied. “A lot of Los Angeles that you see with the old English started right here – You can’t stop someone for trying to make some money, they have to eat.” He describes the boardwalk as not too far off from a swap meet, consistently being under sold for his work, while people try to haggle down his prices.
Once through the door of The Lab, Flewnt’s combination house/studio, a large-scale multi-textured rendering of a fashion designers workspace, roughly 7 feet by 8 feet inhabits half the living room. Flewnt’s one bedroom hardwood floor space has everything he needs. A large space for an instillation of this size, along with several varied sized canvases of completed and works in progress, a space for his electric saws, a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen.
Flewnt’s large-scale installation donning the words Fashion, Art, Music framed by actual denim pockets from repurposed jeans stuffed with either scissors, spools of thread, paintbrushes or cassette tapes, is being created for Project Ethos.
Project Ethos an event that goes on in conjunction with LA Fashion Week, features up-and- coming fashion designers, artists and musicians under the same roof. Flewnt is slated to set up shop stage left of the runway, while the crowd gets a live show. The process of creating his work in front of a large crowd is not a foreign concept to Flewnt. My first encounter with the artist was downtown Los Angeles, at the Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk, which takes place the second Thursday of every month. There Flewnt had his own pop up shop for the night, filled entirely with his work, while he crafted another large piece with all the fingerprints of a Flewnt piece, denim worked over with paint, transformed into a new background texture, in the foreground “Los Angeles Art” in old English.
When asked what the inspiration behind denim was, “ It reminded me of coming up…it was the most affordable thing that a single mother could afford.” Referring to growing up in a single-family home with his brother. Flewnt’s art is frequently called found art. “Nothing here I found, it’s in my house…I use things from thrift stores, spray cans are empty from when I used them.” “I make it look like it’s found.” While this piece is still in line with his aesthetic, it was a change for him because of its focus on fashion. “ Here’s a piece that is really important to me, for one it’s the same and it’s my style using real objects, but it has to do with fashion, I always deal with fashion, but it’s usually jeans, tennis shoes.”
Flewnt saw this opportunity to work with Project Ethos to take his interest in fashion, music and art and marry it into this piece. Music was a big part of his creative process; during this piece specifically, a lot of Chris Brown was pouring through the speakers. “His cd was on repeat…it really showed me the range, he has some dance songs, he has soulful, some slap…it brought a whole new meaning of how theses brothers put music together.” While musicians take inspiration from all genres, Flewnt takes his direction from objects that surround him. He explains how he decides which objects make it in into a piece, as “You want everything to always keep the eye, as an artist I found, you can never make a piece that everybody enjoys, just make it clean and make it good to the eye and everything makes sense, you know what I mean, those are the rules that I live by.” Flewnt expressed without a need to justify, that occasionally country music fills The Lab. “I like to seriously listen to country music, they express themselves to the point.” Although during Ethos, Flewnt had a mix to “switch it up.”
The piece created in The Lab, completely transformed once at Project Ethos. Instead of the unfinished wood as background, now a black glossy finish with Flewnt’s design outlined in white paint are created with intentional strokes to give the appearance of paint dripping off the wood itself. Glowing under the dim colorful lights of the stage, Flewnt is as much an artist in his own world as he is a performer in the middle of a huge venue. The night played on like a dance between Flewnt to the side of the runway and the occasional planned interruption of performances and runway shows.
While Flewnt enjoys what he does he recognizes that it is his work that pays the bills, with the understanding that he creates his own path and must continually make work to survive. Truly enjoying the process of making art for people to enjoy he views every sell as a piece in his archive. “It’s a business and it’s a friendship, it’s love for art, if a person wants some art that person is going to keep that piece alive longer than I’m alive.” He envisions down the road his work being passed through families, and leaving a legacy for his four year-old son, Marley.
A work ethic that’s apparent to anyone who has seen his volumes of work. The art scene is not what concerns him, rather the work that he’s producing. With the boardwalk as his background, he sees many people that pop up a table and call themselves painters. To Flewnt what sets him apart is waking up everyday and making his work, his breakfast, lunch and dinner. “You’re not putting one hundred percent towards your craft, your love then it’s not working for me.” “I do this 24-7, there’ s people out there that tell me I’m an artist but I work at Starbucks.” “It’s super hardcore serious.”