Interview Series: Swampy

Elusive street artist Swampy shook up San Francisco with his staggering one-night exhibit ‘In My Bedroom’ at the FIFTY24SF gallery in the Lower Haight. It was a mind-boggling event – the front half of the gallery filled with a collection of the freight-hopper’s photographs (yes, you read that right, Swampy spends much of his life traveling the country via train, a highly illegal and dangerous past-time), as well as a few of his original paintings.

But the most brilliant part of the show was the second half. Within the gallery, the artist built a wall, literally – which divided the space in half – and one of the paintings lifted to reveal a large hole. Once on the other side, Swampy’s drawings and random musings covered every aspect of the space, all of the walls and the ceiling. You could buy anything in the room for $60, and he sold EVERY piece. In one corner sat a mattress, one of his traveling coats, a single lamp, a vintage tape player and a handful of mix-tapes. There were also randomly placed relics, such a signed railroad spike, medicine bottles, paint cans – the basic necessities of a drifter. He was at the show, we learned, but chose to remain anonymous due to his illegal activities as a freight-hopper.

We also later learned that Swampy spent a little over a week in the space – he literally slept on the mattress on the floor – working on his exhibit day and night until completion. Below we’ve included the mix that was playing during his ‘In My Room’ exhibit, a creepy but calming mish-mash of songs, as Swampy said, “made up of a bunch of cassettes and VHS’s slowed down and reversed and mushed together.” Play it as you scroll down through the images to get the full experience of his show. Also, Juxtapoz magazine writer Joshua Blank did some freight-hopping with Swampy for this month’s issue, so be sure to pick up a copy and check out the article. It’s an eye-opener.

SWAMPY – “In My Room” by SWAMPY

BELOW: The painting that could be lifted to reveal the second half of the ‘In My Bedroom’ exhibit. Also, a collection of photographs of his experiences while freight-hopping. In his interview in Juxtapoz, Swampy reveals details about his life that explain his squatter lifestyle, such as living his early years in a hippy, meth-filled California beach town, where his mom was a waitress and his dad was a Hell’s Angel, whose nomadic lifestyle he somehow connected to.

A few things about Swampy (via Juxtapoz):

1: He doesn’t pay for anything.
2: He has been known to use non-traditional methods in his artwork, such as using house paint to do his graffiti.
3: As a past-time, Swampy collects old jars of ink.

That’s all folks, you have to read the Juxtapoz article in full to get the full scope of Swampy’s awsomeness, but in the meantime, check out the rest of the photos below.

ABOVE: You can learn all about this nude photograph and his experience having sex in a suicide well in the Juxtapoz article. Crazy, right? Also, if you have a moment, you should check out all of his photos on his Flickr of his travels. They are incredibly moving, as you see every moment through his eyes, but never see him.

BELOW: A few of Swampy’s large-scale pieces of his signature skull with tusks and horns, possibly somewhere on a street near you.

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