Artists Sexer, Zimad and Marthalicia Join Forces to Create Mural at State Farm Neighborhood Sessions [EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS]
Pick any neighborhood in the Bronx, N.Y., and there’s one colorful common thread running through it: the graffiti lining the buildings, store fronts and even construction sites. From the TATS Cru to Indie 184 to Cope2, some of the graf world’s most respected artists have blessed more than a few Bronx walls with their tags and murals.
To celebrate the community and bring art into the local space, State Farm launched Neighborhood Sessions, a series of free live concerts and events centered around bringing the biggest names in music back to where they came from. On June 4, Jennifer Lopez kicked off the first show at Orchard Beach in the Bronx, where 25,000 fans witnessed her perform old hits like ‘Waiting For Tonight’ and ‘I’m Real’ to new tracks ‘First Love’ and ‘Girls.’
Before the singer hit the stage, artists James “Sexer” Rodriguez, Luis “Zimad” Lamboy and Marthalicia Matarrita united to create murals featuring several of the borough’s most iconic images. Yankee Stadium, project buildings, an ice cream truck, the Whitestone Bridge, the 5 train, b-boy characters and a water tower were just some of the staples included.
“I’m honored to be a part of something like this,” says Zimad, a 35-year graffiti veteran. “To see all the fans running through, and peeking over our shoulders to look at us before they run and grab their spot [for the show]… A couple people came up to us to tell us they love what we’re doing. It’s really important to represent not only the whole idea of the concert but represent ourselves as artists.”
The trio created four murals throughout the balmy spring day: two served as artist collaborations while the remaining two were a collaboration between the artists and the community. Plenty of spray cans were made available to concert-goers interested in tagging the piece with their own creation.
“There’s a misconception about graffiti,” Zimad shares. “We’re not really graffiti artists anymore. Graffiti is a bad word and it represents illegal activity. What we do is more aerosol art. [We're here] to show the people it’s an artform and you can have fun doing it in a legal setting.”
Marthalicia, whose jovial characters decorated the canvas, felt honored to be working alongside Sexer and Zimad for the project. The two gentlemen came up in the South Bronx’s Melrose projects together, “running the streets” as kids and sharing a love for tagging the subway trains with graffiti as teens. Today, they’ve moved on to showing their work in galleries around the world.
“I feel so honored that I’m working side by side with two legendary people who have been doing art since I was born,” Marthalicia states. “The original objective is to not just show our skill but celebrate the Bronx, celebrate the people here and the historical aspect of it.”
While Sexer’s artistic abilities were his main focus for the day, he didn’t lose sight of the bigger picture. “This is so beneficial for the Bronx,” he explains. “The Bronx is benefiting from this in a different way, not just because J.Lo is giving a concert. The Bronx [will] reap the benefits from clean roads and beautiful gardens, and for the community to be involved is great.”
Like Lopez, Sexer’s involvement with State Farm’s Neighborhood Sessions was a coming home of sorts. “I’m a Bronxite, South Bronx — Melrose projects. It feels great to give back to my people. I will never forget my art days — I started in the subways of New York. It’s an honor for [State Farm] to have chosen me.”
To experience art and community involvement at State Farm Neighborhood Sessions, follow @StateFarmNation on Twitter to find out the date for the next free concert.