‘Dismantling gatekeeping notions’: All American Trash art show shines light on local artists

By Kimberly Kapela, Staff Reporter

A crowd gathers to view artists live paint for the All American Trash spray can art show held at Chicago Distilling Company. Kimberly Kapela

Spray paint bottles, sticker tags and paintbrushes filled the atmosphere of the Chicago Distilling Company during its All American Trash spray can art show.

The show, held on Friday, April 1 from 6-11:30 p.m. at the Chicago Distilling Company, 2359 N. Milwaukee Ave., included artists Kawaii Suga, Ocean Muerto, Hink Stink and ArmsOfThePig in the lineup.

The show also featured a live painting event where teams of artists would partner up to spray paint a barrel. Live painting was done by Clue?, Frillz, Kiitysaurus, Nambo, Plantboy and Roiz.

Creatives participating in the event were identified during the show by just their artist name due to the nature of their work as street artists.

Artist Alex Martell — also known as “UnderSeaGravy” — is a senior illustration major at Columbia and organizer of All American Trash. He currently works as a part-time manufacturer at Chicago Distilling Company and a freelance illustrator.

Martell expressed interest in creating a series piece on the darker side of political figures and experiments with various eccentric, trippy patterns, stickers and spray paint.

A graffitied mannequin, signed by various artists and adorned with barbed wire, eccentric designs and swirls, greets visitors for the live paint show. Kimberly Kapela

Before All American Trash’s events started to have big turnouts, Martell vended at tables selling stickers. Through his vending work, he was able to gain traction and get involved in other art shows. He now wants to pass along the favor and help other local artists sell their art and promote their skills.

“I work with spray paint so much, I wanted to do a whole show based off spray cans because I didn’t really want to do a medium that I felt was traditional-based,” Martell said. “Our place [Chicago Distilling] is like a genuine spirit. I’m very grateful for being able to work with them, and if it really wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be able to have the opportunity to show and really be able to take the show to where it’s at now.”

Martell said All American Trash shows are a great way for him to connect with other artists and know who his audience is outside of art communities that gatekeep their artists.

“Getting out and doing events like that is really hard, and being able to be in other spots that feels really cliquey is also tricky, too,” Martell said. “I feel when we do shows that are really involved to people locally, we’re dismantling these gatekeeping notions about the whole art community and not making it seem like it’s for a specific group of people and that it can be for everybody.”

Martell doesn’t charge anyone at the door, and he makes it public that he doesn’t take any cuts or fees from the artists participating.

Artist and illustrator Adele Henning, who goes by “Hink Stink,” depicts her signature black and white horror-inspired women on her spray paint bottle. Kimberly Kapela

Francisco Vilchez, who goes under the artist name “Frillz,” is a street artist and illustrator who was live painting during the show with his teammate.

Vilchez’s art is based around a dog character with cactus arms and is inspired by his everyday life in Chicago as a first-generation Mexican-American.

“I usually incorporate my character doing stuff that I find amusing or just in my daily life,” Vilchez said.

Local events such as All American Trash allow Vilchez to connect with other artists and support community artwork.

“I think it helps build community with other artists as long as people come by,” Vilchez said.

A spray paint bottle for sale by artist ArmsOfThePig titled “Harkat Pig” features a grotesque and bloody pig. Kimberly Kapela

Artist Kiitty Alcantar, who goes by “Kiittysaurus,” is a freelance painter and illustrator who participated in live painting her staple tag — a blue character that wears Minnie Mouse ears.

Alcantar’s art is reminiscent of her inner child, but also combines elements of creepiness from a feminine perspective that’s still appealing to children.

“I’ve kind of created a world for myself where I’m doing stuff being me, just kind of floating around,” Alcantar said.

She paired up with local artist Plantboy to spray paint a barrel that is inspired by nature.

Alcantar also said she valued the community that was formed at the event.

“It’s really important because when I was younger, I really wish I had a lot more opportunities to do stuff like this,” Alcantar said. “Now that I’m being presented with so many opportunities, and I’m able to give a lot more opportunities to other people just because I host events myself, it’s just amazing. I really like that feeling, just being able to give back when people have given so much to me.”

For more artist events like All American Trash, you can find information on the Chicago Distilling Company website and by following UnderSeaGravy on Instagram for more details.