March 7th marked Divide Rights third annual “Think Big” art exhibit, inspired entirely by Hip-Hop legend Biggie Smalls.
Taking place in Brooklyn’s Green Point neighborhood , the exhibit showcased some of the cities best artwork inspired by the late Bed Stuy rapper. The event also included live art and tattoo sessions to go along with a complimentary drink upon arrival.
Although there were an array of beautiful paintings, three pieces in particular stood out to me. Micheal Saviello’s “Rolling Stones Greatest” , Lourdes Jackson’s “The Corner”, & Golden Curls piece.
These pieces stood out to me because they embodied Biggie’s style and persona in art form.
I was fortunate enough to speak to the artist who painted these pieces and learn a little about what inspired them to make the piece and what Biggie Smalls means to them.
Micheal Savillo aka Big Mike has been the manager at the iconic East Village barbershop, Astor Place Hairstylists, for nearly 40 years. Since he was young, he’s always had a passion for art. Influenced by impressionism and realism, as well as, popular culture, Mike has recreated some of the greatest moments in history.
I asked Micheal about what inspired him to make the piece, and he had this to say:
“I wanted to do something different so I just was scrolling the internet looking for biggie pictures. Then I had an idea just wanted to see all magazine covers he was on . Then I saw that Rolling Stone cover! That was it but I didn’t like the picture on the cover so I used all the script handwriting but I changed the picture.”
When asked what Biggie meant to him personally:
“I’m 59 years old. I started painting exactly 3 years ago. So I started painting my wife at first then one of my coworkers, a young kid told me know who you should paint Biggie. Tell you the truth I really didn’t know too much about Biggie. I knew his music but that’s about it but I always always loved that picture with the crown so iconic. But the the picture with the crown doesn’t have the famous sweater so I put those together because my art is about color. The funny part is while I was painting Biggie, I would listen to his music on Spotify and I really got to learn about him, his music and struggles. I watched a few documentaries about hip-hop and him , I was really amazed at such a young age he was so powerful but also when you listen to his songs he has a soft side and a vulnerability about him. I saw it in his eyes that’s why I loved to paint Biggie. They are fierce but also doubtful, makes me think of myself when I was 20 years old I wanted to rule the world but was always doubting myself. It’s part of youth!”
The next piece that caught my eye was Lourdes Jackson’s “Ready To Die” painting. Inspired by BIG’s astonishing debut album “Ready To Die” Lourdes piece is a recreating of the legendary album work.
Born in Portland, Oregon, Lourdes Jackson is self taught artist and designer. About 4 years ago, he began to take art seriously and started traveling.
“I was a troubled youth so I’m sorta living on the edge of a razor blade, cliff or whatever edge of consequences you could imagine. Too many felonies and years wasted so my only choice is to push this left hand of mine. I don’t wanna let my daughter down because I’m my families only chance of having something different so I never stay in one place. I come from a small town so traveling is the only thing getting my art on a consistently seen stage.”
Inspired by BIG’s “Ready To Die” album artwork Lourde just wanted to put a black man on a pedestal
“The inspiration behind the piece is I’ve always loved the simplicity of the Ready to Die album cover. It’s just a powerful image. I wanted to make a great piece of Black Art from it. So it serves two purposes. Honoring Biggie as well as putting a young black king on a glamorized pedestal. I think it’s all in all just a piece of dope black art.”
Even though Loudre is from the west coast, he had an admiration for East Coast artist.
“For me being from the west coast, naturally I was initially a Tupac fan before I even knew much about Big. Growing up as a music lover Big is someone who you have to recognize as a key component in how East Coat rap was heard. Honestly I listen to more east coast rap than I do anything. I gotta give that credit to Big. A west Coast dude born and raised that playlist consists of AZ, The Lox, Nas Jay-Z of course. That’s all due to Notorious B.I.G.”
Lastly, we get to Golden Curls piece. A vibrant recreation of another widely known Biggie Smalls picture.
Golden Curls added a colorful flare to her Biggie portrait>
“Off the bat, I go crazy for color! I’m a very vibrant person so I try to bring that into my art work. I wanted to paint a portrait of Biggie, but with my style included. I have to be honest with you, the color scheme I chose was a decision I made a long the way. I had no idea this was going to be the outcome, but it came out amazing!”
For Golden, Big’s career represented to never listen to naysayers and continue to chase your dreams.
“In my opinion, Biggie represented every young kid who had a dream, but had many tell them they can’t do it. I’ve had a lot of people in my life who told me making art a huge priority in my life wasn’t smart or wasn’t a good look. As long as you believe in yourself and have the talent to back it up, nothing can stop you. That’s what biggie taught me.”
Micheal, Lourdes and Golden all come from different walks of life, however BIG’s music was able to inspire them to create art that can be enjoyed by the masses.
Although Biggie Smalls is no longer alive his impact is continuing to affect people even twenty plus years after his death.
R.I.P to the King of New York, Biggie Smalls.