Artist spray paints messages into his work

Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELDSan Francisco grafitti artist Chor Boogie paints a mural March 14 in the new business, Street Bread, located at 3131 Perkins Road.
Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELDSan Francisco grafitti artist Chor Boogie paints a mural March 14 in the new business, Street Bread, located at 3131 Perkins Road.

He said it wasn’t a sandwich shop but a movement.

And he sprayed it on the metal wall: Street Breads Movement, over and over until the swirls in his cursive overlapped.

Hieroglyphics is what he called it ­— modern hieroglyphics. Definitely not graffiti.

Of course some people still see him as just that, a graffiti artist, someone who spray paints words and pictures on walls.

Even his name, Chor Boogie, fits with the theme.

“But I just call myself an artist,” he said. “I’m an artist who does art with spray paint, and I create art in the way the Egyptians used hieroglyphics. There were messages in their pictures.”

Just as there’s a message in the picture Boogie has created in this sandwich shop, which isn’t a shop at all in his eyes.

It’s a movement.

“That was the first thing he said when he walked in,” Josh Priola said.

Priola is owner of Street Breads, which stands at 3131 Perkins Road near the overpass.

He knew he wanted his shop to reflect the atmosphere of the area. It had to be something different, definitely hip.

“I knew I wanted to make graffiti a part of the concept,” Priola said. “This is a special area. People expect something to be outside the mainstream. So, I looked for an artist who’s on the scene.”

Boogie had been invited to Baton Rouge by Kevin Harris a few months earlier to work on a project at the Museum of Public Art. Harris is a local orthodontist and artist who spearheaded the museum, which is where Priola saw the artist’s work.

“So, I got in touch with him,” Priola said. “He asked us to put a sheet of metals over the walls we wanted him to work on. The rest was left up to him.”

Now the movement has begun. Then again, anyone who meets Boogie could walk away saying the movement never stops.

In fact, it’s been moving at a steady stream since Boogie was 5 years old. That’s when he was known as Jason Hailey in his hometown of Oceanside, Calif., near San Diego.

His kindergarten teacher handed the young artist a paint brush, and he immediately went to work. He knew then he wanted to be an artist, a goal that was strengthened by what he calls the spray paint culture.

“I was drawing comic book pictures, and when I was 13, I saw this spray paint art in an aqueduct, and I knew I wanted to do that,” he said.

But there was one problem. Most of the time, spray paint art was illegally created in public places, something most people call graffiti. And graffiti bore messages.

“The original spray paint artists have a certain way of doing it, and they get frustrated with the way the art has changed over the years,” Boogie said. “I picked up a spray paint can and went for it, not knowing the rules or the cultural meaning behind it. And there are rules just as there are rules to everything. But some people just like taking the quick way out.”

But Boogie learned the rules along the way, painting anywhere and everywhere he could.

Yes, he admits that what he did was illegal.

“It was in illegal places,” he said.

And along the way he fueled his love for art by studying the work of such artists as Michelangelo, Da Vinci and Rembrandt to Klimt, Van Gogh and Dali. He combined their inspiration with that of modern day spray paint “mentors” such as Phase2, Vulcan, Coma, Sake, Apex and Pose2.

“This helped guide my lifestyle into a life, itself,” he said.

For everything changed in a single day when Boogie was taking part in a painting event at a public park. He was 22 at the time.

“And the event was legal,” he said, laughing.

Now, this is where the story is seasoned with a dash of “Hollywood ending,” because a driver spotted Boogie’s work, stopped and hired the artist.

“As time progressed, my career picked up,” he said.

But there were interruptions along the way with an addiction and recovery. No life is perfect, but Boogie was able to get back and moved to San Francisco in 2007.

His name is continuously in circulation, and he’s been called to work on projects throughout the world. He’s also exhibited in San Diego’s Museum of Contemporary Art, among others.

He’s also painted portraits for such celebrities as Hugh Hefner and Jay-Z.

And now he’s in Baton Rouge, creating a movement, a movement of swirls and color that immediately grab patrons the moment they walk into the shop.

“I didn’t start out with an idea,” Boogie said. “I never start out with an idea. I walk in and look at the space and start from there.”

For Street Breads, he’s created a mural with a heart at its center, the juxtaposition of its colors making it appear almost three-dimensional.

Boogie spent almost a week creating this piece. And Prioli is right. This is something different, definitely something on the cutting edge.

“In my work I bring an understanding of the streets,” Boogie writes in his artist’s statements. “The streets are where I come from, the streets are my urban canvas, the streets are where I practiced daily. Contemplating the influence of life in the streets is there and always will be, but so is realizing the horizon is much broader and stepping out of my box into new worlds. My mission is to uplift this spray paint element to a more visionary and fine artist perspective while maintaining a balance keeping the respect of choice alive.”

And he has done just that as he spreads his movement to Baton Rouge.