Urban wildlife
Encounters with Bigfoot – skater, artist, vegan, and designer.

By Lori Spears

Feat, don't fail me now: Bigfoot, below, rolls with his cutout alter ego; his 2004 Natural Disaster depicts his Lorax-like creation rumbling with bulldozers. Guardian photo by Lori Spears Feat, don't fail me now: Bigfoot, right, rolls with his cutout alter ego; his 2004 Natural Disaster depicts his Lorax-like creation rumbling with bulldozers.
Guardian photo by Lori Spears (right)
BEFORE ART- world sensation Neck Face, there was the urban myth of Bigfoot. His big-haired, brown and green beastly images have dotted San Francisco's 'scape since 1994, when the now-31-year-old anonymous vegan adopted the name in the streets and in the galleries.

The artist Bigfoot, a San Francisco Art Institute dropout, hails from New Jersey ("the armpit of America") and now makes his living selling his acrylic paintings and day-jobbing at I-Path, the footwear company he cofounded in 1998 with Matt Field, a pro skater for Rasa Libre. Bigfoot says, "It's a culmination of my philosophies, favorite cultures – skateboarding and art. I do illustrations. I am one of the art directors and basically the mascot." Bigfoot drew the logo that pops up on I-Path's shoes, wallets, and hoodies and all related gear.

Bigfoot the painter depicts his alter ego as an oversize woodland creature zapping bulldozers with lightning bolts, meditating in the forest, and sometimes terrorizing the viewer with menacing growls and grabbing paws. He's the ultimate tree hugger, but he's not a hippie. The work seems repetitive in a Rain Man-esque way, but if you look closely, you see there is a secret language being developed and a story building. The art of "getting up" is not lost on the endearingly shy, KISS-crazed artist, however; the demand for his gallery work has kept him out of the streets since July 2004.

I caught up with the elusive man in March between exhibits in Los Angeles and Tokyo.

Bay Guardian: Tell us about your art school experience.

Bigfoot: I went to portfolio day at San Francisco Art Institute, where I looked at the catalog, and it was the first time I had seen Barry McGee's art. I said, "Dad, it's there or nowhere else!" I convinced him to pay for some art school, plus I knew that it was fun to skate here. I watched the Sick Boys skate video so many times, and Thrasher was my favorite mag since I was 12, so after high school, I came out here on a Greyhound bus from Newark, New Jersey. SFAI was a good creative environment, a good lesson in aesthetics and what kind of art I didn't want to make.

BG: Are there any other artists in your family?

B: Yeah, my mom's an artist, an oil painter. She would copy Currier and Ives paintings while she was pregnant with me, and she worked a bunch of graphic design jobs. Her aunt was a painter that was murdered by an ex-boyfriend, stabbed 17 times, and I just learned that my dad had an aunt that painted too, before she was committed to an insane asylum.

BG: How is S.F.'s graf scene different from when you moved here in 1992?

B: There's just been more development. New buildings built where there used to be vacant lots. I am more selective about spots because I don't like to be next to other writers I don't know. Plus, I am more easily recognized, so I need to be careful. My main priority is design and galleries these days.

BG: How did you get involved with Tony Hawk's video game, Underground 2?

B: Someone from NeverSoft, a video game developer, asked to use my graffiti and my Bigfoot character in the game. He skates in a level called Skatopia, and that is where you can see my graffiti.

BG: Why do you feel the need to be a mystery with your pseudonym and at the same time well-known?

B: I just feel like my human name doesn't mean shit. I don't wanna be human. I wish I was a bigfoot. It's the persona that I wanna represent – the whole natural world, animal and plant kingdom rolled into one. Bigfoot summed it up and said all I wanted to say just in one word. This society is so square. I don't care about formalities. It's about breaking the structure and rules that society has made. People can't ignore the artists' voices anymore, because they realize the kids are listening.

BG: What is your intent as an artist? How do you feel about the merchandising of art – T-shirts, action figures, and shoes?

B: There's so much I want to convey to the humans of this world. Visual images are ways to communicate to people that words can't express. My art is survival. It's an "art-illery" against the opposition.

For me, all the commercial stuff is just mass-producing and making stuff on a level to be distributed on a larger scale that's harder to accomplish with handmade paintings. These action figures that I just came out with through Strangeco are like my army of Bigfoots that will come alive and infect the human race. I just try to impress myself because if I'm not accomplishing stuff, I'll be down and my spirit guides will be mad at me.

Bigfoot's cut-outs and paintings are on exhibit Fri/29 in the group show "I'll Put My Trust in You," On Six Gallery, Club Six, 60 Sixth St., S.F. (415) 863-1221. Reception with the Coachwhips and Battle Axe 7 p.m.-2 a.m. Free until 9 p.m., $5 after.