The West Coast artist LA Hope Dealer is dealing hope and awareness with her new art project centered around the Covid-19 pandemic. Albuquerque could be next and we’re excited to sit down with artist Corie Mattie to talk about what she’s doing and how she’s dealing out inspiration during this world wide pandemic.
Interview by Kori Kobayashi | Photos courtesy of artist Corie Mattie
The word on the street is you may be planning a mural or two here in Albuquerque? Can you give us any info on the location or what to look forward to?
Well, if I can find a few walls in Albuquerque, I would love to do some LA Hope Dealer murals there. I think the yellow background complements the New Mexico terrain. If this comes to fruition, it would be ideal to incorporate images and ideas native to the city.
You’re living in Los Angeles currently but originally from Philadelphia, how does the city you live in help shape your art?
I have an East Coast mindset and attitude, but my heart lies on the West Coast. Los Angeles has a competitive art scene so it keeps me on my feet. The city motivates me to constantly improve my technique and experiment with new mediums. I love being surrounded by so many creatives because it constantly challenges me to think of new concepts and think outside the box.
What were you working on before Covid-19 hit?
Before Covid-19, I was working on a lot of custom pieces for clients. They would come to me with general ideas, colors, and themes and then allow me to put my own creative twist onto the final piece. I just completed a Kobe Bryant tribute mural and was in the middle of generating concepts for another one when all of my projects basically froze due to the pandemic and quarantine.
When did you get the name LA Hope Dealer? What does that title/ name mean to you?
I have a list of ideas in my phone that I keep in-hand. I had the idea for “Hope Dealer” for awhile now but never thought it was the right time to execute. When the pandemic hit, I thought it would be an appropriate time to introduce the LA Hope Dealer. I want to bring positivity in a unique and creative way to the world, as well as awareness and inspiration to communities. I added LA to be more specific to Los Angeles, however, I also wanted the LA to stand for “the” in Spanish so it could be applied not only to the Los Angeles community but the global community as well.
LA Hope dealer is a movement I want others to feel part of and involved in. This isn’t meant to be just my project. That’s why I have been sending pieces to several cities throughout the United States—so even non-artists can post pictures, use their creativity and be connected. I compare it to a creative fight club—in which “hope dealers” are popping up all over the world with help from my creative direction. The LA Hope Dealer movement is meant to promote individual creativity while feeling part of something massive.
In a recent interview, you were quoted saying,“No one at this time has experienced something like this, any age group, anyone,” What does it mean to you to be an artist during this time and what responsibly do you feel artists have?
This time period will be written about for years to come in textbooks and historical references. I believe a unique opportunity has arisen for artists during Covid-19. Just like during the Black Plague in the 14th century, a period of strong artistic expression is underway. Sometimes you can’t describe a situation or feeling with words, so that’s where artistic expression becomes more relatable and valued.
Since this is a global issue, pandemic-related pieces are appealing to a wider range of viewers, in an unprecedented way. These pieces convey universal truths across cultures, values, age, gender, situations, etc. Artists have the chance to challenge, justify and comfort the feelings we may be experiencing, while providing clarity and reassurance during such a confusing and weird time.
Do you have any new pieces you’re planning on releasing and can you give us any clues?
Yes, I do! I am constantly thinking of future pieces. My work needs to be relevant and coincide with what’s going on in the world. I have to study the pattern and predict what might happen and what will appeal to people’s emotions and daily life. Unfortunately, I cannot give you any hints—it’s more fun to be surprised, anyway.
When did you start creating street art? What is it about street art that draws you to it?
I never thought of myself as a street artist, to be honest. In my opinion, there was always a pseudonym attached to street artists, and I never wanted to be incognito. I always wanted my name attached to the pieces I was doing and the voice I was conveying. This is all new to me—I never want to paint illegally, or break the law. I am unique in a way because I am committed to being a “legal” street artist—getting permission from business owners, putting up cardboard signs that can be easily removed and completing most of my work in broad daylight.
Are there other artists that you follow or you’re inspired by? Who are they and why?
I fell in love with Banksy’s work about seven years ago. I think he is the most clever street artist I have ever come across. He creates images about current social and political issues that have a touch of dark humor while relaying deeper messages. I think his signature stenciling technique is part of the reason I began painting black and white images.
How is the artist community in LA supporting each other in this unique time of social distancing?
The L.A. art community is literally coming together to paint the town. The barren, boarded-up windows across Los Angeles look like something out of The Walking Dead. We, as artists, took on the responsibility to brighten the community and showcase our work with temporary murals throughout the city.
You have new pieces popping up throughout LA. Where else would you like to create? Do you have a wall or location you’ve always wanted to paint?
I truly would love to paint everywhere and anywhere. The option to slow down is absolutely not an option for me. When the quarantine completely eases up, I would love to be able to paint in New York City, Miami, Paris, Rome, etc. All of these cities, after Albuquerque, of course. I never want to limit myself to a specific city or just major cities. I want to be accessible to everyone all over the world.
Where can people find out more about you?
We understand you’re also giving back to the homeless by giving them free masks to wear. How are you doing this and how can people help or donate?
I partnered with an L.A-based company called Ello Masks. For every mask sold, one is donated to Skid Row. I think this is a crucial time to give back to the less fortunate. The best thing people can do is buy a mask (listed on my site)! I also set up my Venmo specifically for the LA Hope Dealer project, so any money donated gets put back into the project—whether it’s supplies, shipping pieces to other cities, paying other creatives to help, etc.
According to the NY Times, “The recent Covid-19 Impact Survey for Artists and Creative Workers showed that 95 percent of artists have lost income and 62 percent have become fully unemployed since the crisis began.” In what ways are artists like yourself surviving? And can you share any insight on art programs like the “Back to the Streets” campaign from the nonprofit Beautify?
Once all of this hit, most projects that artists were working on came to a complete standstill. There are a handful of artists-relief programs circling in the community trying to give back to struggling artists. It’s truly not easy surviving during this time—it’s not easy surviving as an artist even without a pandemic. Local city art councils are helping artists by trying to raise money and awareness for them, but it still isn’t a significant amount. I think there’s a common misconception that we get paid for all these walls we do. I have painted roughly 10 walls, and I have seen a little bit of money from two walls—money that basically just covered supplies and travel.
Beautify is an excellent nonprofit. It’s basically a platform that connects muralists with businesses that want their walls painted. Beautify facilitates the communication between artist and business and is there every step of the way. The nonprofit opens up more opportunities and connections for artists than they may have had before.
What’s next for you?
LA Hope Dealer has become a part of me—it is my alter-ego. I always had the vision to inspire people to take the path less traveled and follow their dreams. I wanted to be a living, breathing, accessible example of that. Yes, LA Hope Dealer emerged during a global pandemic, but it is important that I continue making relevant pieces post-Covid-19. Right now, we’re all in the same boat facing different storms. However, after this, people will be going through different issues, illnesses and experiences, and I think it’s important that I still deal Hope and motivate people to keep going.
In a world of constant media, advertising, and fake news how do you know what to believe or what to promote through your art?
I try to promote or touch on issues that touch my soul and light a fire within me. Artistic expression creates a message that needs to resonate to viewers. I might create a piece that means something specific to me, but someone else takes it a completely different way. Isn’t that what art is for? It is meant to touch people—whether it’s the way I intended or not.
Any last words, thoughts or hope to deal out to our ABQ-Live readers?
I truly hope I continue to create images and sayings that validate that we are not alone in what or how we are feeling, while adding hints of motivation and inspiration for people to achieve whatever they sought out to do. We only have one life, why waste it?