Icy and Sot: Stencils and Endangered Species

[When I'm not obsessed with stencils, I'm working for the amazing environmental NGO Center for Biological Diversity. CBD mostly protects endangered species, and I was excited last year when a co-worker told me Roger Peet (Justseeds) - an artist in my book Stencil Nation - was organizing murals across the USA for CBD. Eventhough I have co-painted some stencil peices for CBD, I'm out of the loop on this project (Hey, I'm doing other serious work for the org!). Much to my surprise, Icy and Sot have painted the latest mural with Roger and CBD. I'm grateful that the folks at Brooklyn Street Art hung out on the roof with them as they put up this great piece! - Russell]

photo by Jess X. Chen

Posted on January 21, 2016

Street Artists Icy & Sot are thinking about the ocean. More specifically they’re thinking about its largest resident, the blue whale.

Up to 110 feet long and 330,000 pounds, the blue whale literally can go to the deepest part of the ocean, or hang out on the surface.
This brand new mural is the brothers’ first stencil to address endangered species and it took a lot of blade wielding in their Brooklyn studio this month to cut the maritime scene before flying to Los Angeles to spray it out. Their work often speaks of social and political ills such as homelessness, war, arms proliferation, immigration. This is their very first that gives voice to those whose habitats are regularly contaminated and polluted by industry and individuals.

“We wanted to use a species that lives in water,” says Sot as they discuss the special project with the Justseeds Cooperative for the Center for Biological Diversity.

“California has suffered a lot recently with their lack of clean water and now the oceans are often polluted as well,” says Sot.
“There is so much plastic pollution in the ocean too,” Icy continues. “What it does to the animals is really bad. I was reading this article and turtles eat jellyfish for their diet. But then people throw plastic bags in the ocean and the turtle thinks they are jellyfish and they eat the plastic. A lot of sea creatures have plastic bags inside of their bodies – they find them when the animals are caught.”

The brothers spent two solid days hand cutting the multi-layer stencil here on Melrose Avenue. How many pieces? “19 pieces,” says Icy. “Its not that big but it has a lot of details” The composite image features an enormous whale emerging from the sea in full view of a coastline packed with industrial forms which presumably are dumping contaminants directly into the waters.

As ever, the brothers crash into each others sentences while talking to us. “Whatever happens in the ocean… it comes back to us,” says Sot. “Whether is trash or plastics or oil..”

Icy jumps in, “The fish eat them and then we eat the animals and we have the plastics inside of us.”

“Yeah, It’s a cycle. We are all making a lot of trash – we are affecting the world. Then it all comes back to us,” says Sot.

In coordination with scientist Noah Greenwald and Roger Peet, an artist who has been painting murals for this endangered species initiative, Icy & Sot are contributing their skill to help raise awareness about our direct impact on the ocean and animal life.
“The goal is to paint murals about endangered species in communities around the country, near to where those species are found, trying to increase awareness of and connection between communities and their ecologies. We’ve done four so far,” says Peet, and he sights locations in Idaho, Montana, Minnesota, and Alabama.

From the mission statement of the project:
“Everywhere on the earth is special, and has qualities that distinguish it from other places both nearby and far away. One of those qualities is the biodiversity of a place, the plants and animals that call that place home and that maybe aren’t found anywhere else. Those plants and animals embody the history of a place and its future, and contribute to what makes a place special. Many of them are, unfortunately, endangered.”