Artist profile: Broken Crow

Twin Cites-based stencil artists and mural painters are decorating walls across the globe with their artistic vision.

Broke Crow was also on the SXSW bandwagon, contributing their images as part of the

Broke Crow was also on the SXSW bandwagon, contributing their images as part of the “Neo OBSOLETE Post NASAL Surrealistic CARNAGE” exhibit in Austin, Texas. PHOTOS COURTESY JOHN GRIDER

Mark Brenden

Somewhere between public art and street art, between the artiste and the vandal, between Van Gogh and Bart Simpson lies the work of John Grider and Mike Fitzsimmons of Broken Crow. The Twin Cities-based pair are pioneers in the art of large-scale stenciling, typically done on sides of buildings. Their vibrant work has brightened the walls of myriad cities across the globe, including London, Paris, Baltimore, Nashville, Dallas, Austin, Brooklyn, Reno, Duluth and Minneapolis. Think of it as gallery art perpetually on display for the everyman. Grider and Fitzsimmons merged their creativity six years ago, when they concluded that it is physically impossible to cut large-scale stencils alone. âÄúWe walk a very thin line on a professional level,âÄù Grider said. âÄúWeâÄôve fallen into the street art category, even though we donâÄôt really promote ourselves as that, because the majority of the stuff we do is legal.âÄù âÄúAt the same time, weâÄôre using the techniques we learned in our teenage years âÄî running around with spray cans,âÄù he said. Although precision and craft hold most the weight in their artistic priorities, bigger is better in the world of Broken Crow. âÄúThe bigger you paint, the more people will see it,âÄù Grider explained. âÄúWeâÄôre interested in painting the largest walls we possibly can. Three stories, five stories, 12 stories âÄî the sky is the limit in terms of what we are capable of.âÄù The intriguing part of this kind of art is that people casually pass it by in the business of their days, lean on it, ash cigarettes on it. Yet the work is often very personal to the artist. Grider said that since becoming a parent (Fitzsimmons is a father as well), the work has become more introspective. Most of their stencils are heavy in animal imagery; they find it both interesting and amusing to place wild animals into urban street corners. In addition to animals and mythology, their style is deeply rooted in the vivacious âÄô90s graffiti scene of their pasts. âÄúI think Mike and I both experienced the interest and then the disillusionment with the graffiti scene here in the late âÄô90s. That led us into our own direction, but a lot of the techniques we learned then carried into what we do now.âÄù As to their future plans, the duo is going to sell prints online through Burlesque of North America, do a show at XY and Z, paint in Gambia and then make like Horace Greeley and go west. They are also working on a project that would have them painting barns across the state and eventually expand into the surrounding states. Ideally they will have their imagination implemented on barns all across the Midwest in the coming years. If itâÄôs as unpredictable as seeing a roaring cheetah cub on a brick bar wall, barns are about to get much more interesting. Street art meet pastoral art.