THE BLOG
01/27/2016 11:34 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Faring Purth & Thievin' Stephen's Bed-Stuy Collabo: 'Cypress, Top Wrung'

The dynamics of collaborations between artists are often informative, even revelatory to the viewers as well as the artists. By deliberately casting your creative lot with that of another you are taking a bit of a risk, experimenting with your own conceptions, responding alongside and in tandem with the style and vision of your partner.

Sometimes it is symbiotic, like Warhol with Basquiat. Or hilariously stunning, like Christopher Walken dancing to Fat Boy Slim. More recently the reviews were awfully mixed with the performance art collaboration of Jay Z and Marina Abramovic.

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Faring Purth & Thievin' Stephen "Cypress, Top Wrung". (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Today, on a windy Brooklyn roof, we look at a fresh collaboration between Oakland's Faring Purth and Rochester's Thievin' Stephen, and we wonder how it will play to the J train audience who pass by it in Brooklyn's Bed-Stuy neighborhood.

Purth travels the country in service to her nearly spiritual in-the-moment musings, her willow-limbed figures ephemeral and hash-marked, comporting themselves outside of realism. The surety of a knife-cut line ensures that stencil-wielding Stephen would not be as on-the-fly when spraying out a portrait, even that of a surrealistic frog sponge being squeezed by his main lady.

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Faring Purth & Thievin' Stephen "Cypress, Top Wrung". (photo © Jaime Rojo)

We spoke with the artists to get their take on the collaborative experience and we learned that despite their stylistic differences the creative partnership was strengthened by "Cypress, Top Wrung" and by facing the challenges of painting outdoors in Brooklyn during January.

How did the collaboration come about?

Faring Purth: We met a few years back during the 2013 Wall\Therapy festival in Rochester, New York. We formed a very unusual close bond after a crazy week of creating - and subsequently surviving a chemical fire on the rooftop of an abandoned building where we were working with a few other artists. Since then, we have adopted each other as family, becoming very familiar with each other's work. Collaborating was a natural progression to that.

Thievin' Stephen: Whenever Faring is back in Rochester we make it a habit to link up, and I'll take her to paint in one of my favorite abandoned spots. We used to explore together and do separate pieces, but after we had fun on a quick collabo this fall in the abandoned Rochester subway, the next logical step was to work together on a bigger wall. Our schedules lined up, so we decided to take advantage of the bizarre January heat wave and meet in Brooklyn.

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Faring Purth & Thievin' Stephen "Cypress, Top Wrung". (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Faring Purth: It's our first official, large scale collaboration. We tossed around a few different locations and ideas. Brooklyn ultimately won - we both have a particular love for this area. The piece itself developed through dialogue and then through exchanging sketches until a cohesive blueprint was formed. That blueprint was the basis and we are thrilled with how the piece ultimately manifested.

Where did the name Cypress come from, and is that the character in the painting?

Faring Purth: It is. While we were completing the work, two friends of mine gave birth to their first child, a beautiful baby girl whom they named Cypress Valentina. The name immediately struck me and resonated as I continued to carve away at this pearl in the freezing cold. I found myself rolling it off my tongue while shivering and clapping my hands together to get the circulation back in my fingers. The elements tested us to say the very least and "Cypress" became a strange mantra for me the following week - helping me feel a little bit stronger and a tiny bit warmer every time I said it.

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Faring Purth & Thievin' Stephen "Cypress, Top Wrung". (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Thievin' Stephen: Yeah, Faring usually gives her women a name, and I enjoy using word play related to my imagery.

Faring Purth: I ultimately decided the figure in the painting should take the name of her celestial twin. It's not every pearl that gets to share their shucking with a human birth. And it's not every name that carries such profound wisdom. Cypress Valentina is now ten days old. Cypress, Top Wrung is two days old. I hope one day their paths cross and that they unlock some universal secret not even I know.

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Faring Purth & Thievin' Stephen "Cypress, Top Wrung". (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The work began immediately after the new year began and that became of certain significance in itself: It's the first of an epic year to come, the release of an epic year just lived. This piece exposed me to a very different process than my own and provided me with many tools and lessons going forward. The experience simultaneously tested my body & spirit greatly. By the time the work was actually done, I had massive bruises, battle wounds, & life lessons to show for it.

As for the stylistic juxtaposition of the work & the various narratives the piece inspires, both are open to interpretation and a happy side effect of our familiarity as artists and friends. We knew how to work with and play off of each other's visions and allow that dialogue to unfold on its own.

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Faring Purth & Thievin' Stephen "Cypress, Top Wrung". (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Your styles couldn't be more different yet the balance and the composition works really well within the context of the piece. Can you talk about your thoughts and experiences creating it.

Faring Purth: "Cypress, Top Wrung" was an incredible learning experience both in the complications of the wall itself and in the personal life that was being lived during its creation. As for me, the two are impossible to separate... One always reflects and reveals elements of the other and in so doing provides me with certain personal epiphanies I needed to have at that moment. Suffice to say, creating Cypress was no different in this respect.

Thievin' Stephen: My favorite collaborations are those where two friends divergent styles come together so that was the most exciting thing about melding my work with Farings'. My color theory mixed with Faring's grey-scale compliment each other, and I think that's what makes this mural feel like the true winter-time creation that it is.

It was fun watching the interplay between my sharpness and her fluidity unfold, and you can see it best where the hand and sponge connect, which was the last thing we did. Waiting for that moment to be done, as we went back and forth getting it right, that felt like a big pay off as it was really the first time our two styles merged into one piece.The wall also benefits from the combination of Faring's painterly line work with my style of stencilism. I put forty something layers of stencils up on this wall. While our aesthetics are certainly far apart, I think the surreal anatomy that Faring gives her women harmonizes with my impossible creatures.

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Faring Purth & Thievin' Stephen "Cypress, Top Wrung". (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The finished piece probably means quite different things to Faring and me, and I think that makes it a more intriguing creation for the viewer.

It's always great to be surrounded by the humanity you encounter in Brooklyn, and Bed-Stuy never disappoints. A lot of crazy shit and hilarious things happened during the creation of this wall, but nothing overshadows the roof top experience. The elevated train line of the J right behind me was a nice inspiration, along with busy-ass Broadway directly below. You know it's a memory when you have to put rock salt under your ladders! Being at the top of a ladder on the very corner of a roof top definitely attracts attention. MTA construction guys thought we were nuts. Maybe we were. I'm happy with the wall, and glad it felt like the good old days.

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Faring Purth & Thievin' Stephen "Cypress, Top Wrung". (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Faring Purth & Thievin' Stephen "Cypress, Top Wrung". (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Faring Purth & Thievin' Stephen "Cypress, Top Wrung". (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Faring Purth & Thievin' Stephen "Cypress, Top Wrung". (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Faring Purth & Thievin' Stephen "Cypress, Top Wrung". (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Faring Purth & Thievin' Stephen "Cypress, Top Wrung". (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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The artists would like to thank Cernesto and ArtsOrg for their help.

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