How do you know when a piece of art is finished? This is a question that all artists struggle with, but one that Vassar chef and graffiti artist TC Ik answered instinctively: “You kind of just know… There’s an energy that emanates from the piece that tells you what you need to know. Sometimes you see the finished product in your head before you actually start to create it, so once you create the thing in your head…it’s done.”
Ik began working at the Deece in 1991. He grew especially close with Vassar students when he founded the org Hip Hop 101, a group that he truly put his heart and soul into. Ik lamented, “It bridged the gap between Vassar and the community outside of Vassar [and also] kept the alumni connected to the current student body through their love of the culture of hip-hop. But as they say…the only constant is change, right?”
Despite his physical proximity to Vassar students, Ik noted that he has lost touch with the Vassar community. This is largely due to leaving Hip Hop 101 and moving into a more behind-the-scenes job in the back of the Deece. “[Students and I used to] talk about anything from politics [and] social issues [to] general life happenings, music, entertainment, art, anime, you name it. There wasn’t a student I didn’t know,” he mused. “I hate not feeling as connected to the students or Vassar as I used to be. It’s kind of sad to look out and just see faces and not feel what I used to feel.”
While Ik may feel detached from the Vassar community, he remains deeply connected to Poughkeepsie’s artistic community. Ik is one-half of Boogierez, an artistic duo formed by combining Rezones (Ik’s artistic pseudonym) with his partner’s name, Riiisa Boogie. Ik illuminated, “I’ve been into graff[iti] since the early ’80s. I went from graffiti art to graphic design to fashion design to photography. I taught Boogie what I know regarding graff[iti] and she just took off with it.”
Since combining forces, Boogierez has created murals all around the world, from New York to Barcelona to Miami and back to Poughkeepsie. Boogierez uses a wide range of materials to create their art pieces: canvas, wood, pens, pencils, acrylic, spray paint, markers, digital media and photography. Ik added, “Boogie uses pretty much everything.”
Their murals are larger-than-life and bold, exemplifying a unique style shaped by the pair’s respective backgrounds. Ik elaborated: “I grew up all over the place…Long Island, New Jersey, Brooklyn and Poughkeepsie. Boogie came to the States from Japan when she was very young…Our style [is] an amalgamation of the lessons learned via living life, our love of hip-hop culture infused with flavorings from Japan and Africa with a heavy dose of imagination and curiosity.”
Imagination is especially present in the duo’s Poughkeepsie murals, especially in their mural on the Main Street underpass, near the train station. Blues and purples create a fantastical atmosphere. An image of a flying eyeball floats by the large purple sneaker of the mural’s main figure, who appears to be wearing a snake-like creature as both a neck and headpiece.
I immediately noticed something very freeing and alive about this mural. Its ambiguity gives it character and uniqueness. Ik noted, “If there are messages that go through our work, they would be to do what you love, as well as to impact, inspire and empower.” In fact, these three words (impact, inspire and empower) appear in the mural’s southern quadrant in bold, eye-catching typography and colors. The large scale of the words, combined with the blue outlining, makes the message pop, demonstrating that these words are important not only to the work itself, but to Boogierez and their artistic message.
Boogierez has another mural in Poughkeepsie near Cafè Sweet Spot, which is located off of Main Street. Similar to the underpass mural, this piece of art also employs the element of imagination, as it depicts a figure flanked by creatures in masks and sweaters and bowties. The piece is whimsical and mysterious, encapsulating the curiosity of both artist and viewer.
Boogierez also currently has two other murals in Poughkeepsie. One is located at the Pulaski Pool on Washington Street, and the other is across from the Chance Theater.
The Poughkeepsie area is clearly a strong source of inspiration for Boogierez. Ik reaffirmed his commitment to the place he calls home: “From its history to its diverse population, the colors, the texture, the swag [and] energy…we draw from [Poughkeepsie] on a regular basis. There’s a lot of talent here. No matter what genre of things you talk about, there are thoroughly talented individuals reppin’ every space.”
So, how do you know when a piece of art is finished? It’s a feeling. It’s a connection. It’s an energy. Ik’s work isn’t finished yet, but I’m confident that he will rebuild his connection with Vassar students, one mural at a time.