YabYum Seven: Brooke Grucella

Brooke Grucella 03Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Brooke Grucella, I am an artist, curator, and Professor of Practice for the School of Art, University of Arizona. I primarily work in 2D and installation these days, however, occasionally I dabble in video and sculpture.

How did you get your start?

How did I get my start….as far as exhibiting…hmmmmm. Well once I graduated from the MFA program I began to search for galleries around the country that exhibited the same type of work I was doing. I got my start as a sort of New Brow, graffiti- influenced artist.

I started showing at a space called Wind-up in Mesa along with a wide arrange of Low Brow, New Brow, Graffiti, and Pop Surreal artists. I expanded out to Cella Gallery with my first solo show, shortly thereafter. Both spaces have since closed, but they gave me my first taste of working in commercial galleries.

Brooke Grucella 02What inspires you?

I am inspired by a lot of things, most of all pop culture and youth driven culture. There is a dash of nostalgia in my work, but it is obscured by the use of skate, surf, toy, comics, and cartoon imagery. Most of my figurative work revolves around my siblings coupled with the stories and communication of our relationships.

Right now I am fixated on abstracting comic book imagery into symbols that represent both the emotional and physical states of dealing with the trauma. Trauma or the disruption of the norm can happen any number of ways.

The next body of work is going to deal with the trauma of cancer. It has effected my family is quite a few ways so I am creating these “portraits” of family members’ cancer using comic book and surf/skate influenced imagery. It would sort of look like microscopic images of the cells, but think of garbage pail kid aesthetics.


My work is an investigation in memory and perception. The process of encoding, storing, and retrieving information as it is filtered through an amalgam of consumer and popular culture intrigues me.

My work focuses on how various forms of collective culture shape issues of sex, gender, politics, depression, fear, anger, love, loss and social strata. My own personal experiences and those of the people who immediately surround me influence the content of the images.

The work considers what develops when romantic, platonic, familial and social influences translate into various forms of recollection. The pieces are not nostalgic, but rather an exercise in distilling down memory into a mutation of commercialism. Figural, textual and decorative aesthetics are essential in the presentation of each piece. Products are signifiers of the events themselves; creating memory becomes a spin-off of the popular culture process.

Brooke Grucella 05What do you like about AZ?

I can remember the first time visiting Arizona before moving here. I thought it was bloody hot, but coming from Simi Valley, California, which is nestled in the Santa Susana Mountains, I thought the spaciousness of Arizona was amazing! The open space, the sunsets, and the monsoons are utter highlights for me. Plus living in Tucson I have the added perk of being in a sort of artsy liberal-ish small (feeling) community.

Where can we see you(r) work?

My work was recently up at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and will soon be in the Small Works Invitational at Davis Dominguez Gallery. I am working on getting my website up and running this summer and Foudai Projects in SF has some of my works in their inventory.

Brooke Grucella 04What would you like to accomplish before you die?

That is a BIG question. Honestly, I would love to be able to focus more on my studio work and travel across the country meeting people, learning new places, finding different inspirations and explore.

What is your mantra?

You can’t make red from orange. Meaning, you can’t go back and change what has already happened. All you can do is live, learn, and grow.


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YabYum Seven: Champ Styles

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All photos courtesy of Champ Styles

Who are you and what do you do?

Champ Styles, the son of AZ Graff Pioneer: Such Styles

How did you get your start?

I’ve been scribbling since 3 months, but as of Graff it was when I was in 5th Grade (2003). I fell into some trouble and was grounded. My dad was tight but by no means ridiculous. I could only watch documentaries for entertainment. So amongst the Nat-Geo VHS and Biblical history movies, I stumbled upon the acclaimed Henry Chalfant feature: Style Wars in my dad’s cabinet.

Now, I had always been around graffiti and the train yards since I was born, I practically had Krylon running through my veins. Hell, I was already dubbed the name, “Champ” when I was in the womb. But it was when I saw those Subway Cars going by done by The Legends such as Zephyr, Crash, Sonic and many more. It was then that “Champ Styles” was born.

Aside from all that, it was my entire childhood: I fondly recall New York’s Killa KA ONE was picking me up at my bus stop. Fyce, Tackz (AM7) and Kaper were always at the house especially during the holidays. I would always see their work and try to do what they did. I remember one time Lalo Cota let me draw dinosaurs in his blackbook. Honestly, I can go on and on.

champ styles 01What inspires you?

My Father, nuff’ said. See, to me, Graffiti is a family thing. Some kids play football on Thanksgiving, others pick up a Nintendo controller, my pops and I pack up some spraycans and go paint a wall.

What do you like about AZ?

What I am constantly drawn to admire about Arizona is the history, there is a lot here and the culture is rich in many aspects. It is deep in the Chicano Lifestyle and you cannot forget the Native art which is breathe taking. The Architecture, landscape – take your pick, basically there is a lot to look at in Arizona.

But in terms of Graffiti also the depth is insane (I’m not talking the street art craze either). I’m talking about the gully work from back in the 80s (since 1983 to be precise). I could take you to spots and remnants of walls that still have some *vintage* scrawl on them, it’s all here hidden in plain sight.

champ styles 07Where can we see you(r) work?

In terms of current wall-work there is The Town of Guadalupe, on Priest between Baseline and Guadalupe. You can see a mural I did with my dad and NY Subway Legend Zephyr. There are a few walls there as well as a few on 5th and Roosevelt, my latest being on the side of the Lost Leaf featuring Subway favorite: Howard the Duck.

My Father and I have painted the backdrop to the HipHop exhibit at the Musical Instrument Museum and of course you can see my work frequently at the Mesa Arts Center. I’ve also done work for a few schools such as Alhambra and Marcos De Niza.

What would you like to accomplish before you die?

To pass on the legacy not just by means of my own blood but in terms of preserving the style and the lifeblood of the culture. Graffiti is a way of life, not a fad and should be acknowledged with such respect.

What is your mantra?

“Why create a mural when you can create an attraction.”


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Pictured with father and artist Such Styles

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YabYum Seven: Such Styles

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All photos courtesy of Such Styles.

Who are you and what do you do?

Greetings! I’m Such Styles and I am a practitioner in the art of Aerosol since 1983.

such styles 02How did you get your start?

My main journey began once I read Crag Castleman’s book titled “Getting Up”. The book shared the inside stories of the lives and activities of young graffitists making their mark on the New York subway system. I was already involved in art as a natural gift from above. My minor involvements in aerosol uses were mainly purposed for cultural and territorial inspirations. However once I read about this East coast movement created by youth for youth, I was strongly intrigued and began my hand at this craft with great sincerity.

What inspires you?

My current work derives its inspiration from numerous areas in my life. Seasons, life experiences, culture, messages, current interest, iconic Americana themes and comic books! ☺

What do you like about AZ?

Our incredible skies!! G-d’s art masterpieces in the great gallery above.

such styles 05Where can we see you(r) work?

Various museums are holders of my work: Phoenix’s Musical Instrument Museum, The Arizona State University Art Museum and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. My current Wall Works include a strong involvement with my son “Champ Styles” which can be seen in the Town of Guadalupe. However our most recent piece can be found behind the Black N Blue Rockstar Clothing & Accessories store in the Phoenix Roosevelt Art district where we recently created an iconic comic book style piece. It received the attention of James Gunn the director of the acclaimed film “Guardians of the Galaxy” … This was a nice and unexpected surprise for us (Art for the Masses!).

What would you like to accomplish before you die?

What I would like to accomplish artistically is to teach this craft at a University. I believe that to study art as a profession that this art form will be a prerequisite to obtaining an art degree. The market has developed a huge demand for this art style and a degree in such a craft would deem beneficial.

What is your mantra?

“Love & Light!” …. Because the world has enough hate & darkness. … “Light up the Darkness!”

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Such Styles: I was only involved in the background on this piece … Champ executed the character of Howard The Duck. So I can not take credit for the character work.

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Niba DelCastillo Answers the YabYum 7

1. Who are you and what do you do?  

My name is Anibal DelCastillo, Niba for short. I’m a photographer in Phoenix mostly shooting the street-art, graffiti and mural scene.

2. How did you get your start?  

I guess I started when living in Tucson. I would go out [and] find areas to stage toys for photo shoots. Started to enjoy the backdrops of the local street writers, then spent the time exploring the areas that had the large concentrations of graffiti and it grew from there.

3. What inspires you?    

The artist that I shoot, the way they manipulate the flow of paint from the cans, the structures the art is on. My kids especially when they say I love that photo dad!!!!!

4. What do you like about AZ?  

The skies, the skies, the skies, from the morning rise to the evening sunset the different hues and cloud cover make AZ beautiful. The skies add so much to my photos.

5. Where can we see your work?

At the moment I’m showing at Carly’s on Roosevelt. Also on PHXTACO. Website coming soon.

6. What would you like to accomplish before you die?    

To show my work in every country on this planet and to have my mark in the history books, but will be happy with people enjoying my photos.

7. What is your mantra?  

I will make it look better!!!!