News & Politics

Samuel Mark, East Village Bed Bug Artist, Strikes Again and Again (Q&A)

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Bed bugs have been busy populating New York City in droves, their flat ugly little bodies infesting couches, mattresses, and rugs all over. They’ve also found a home in Samuel Mark’s latest street art. He translates the pests into graphic designs on sidewalk-trashed furniture, his canvas for giant, cartoon-like bed bug images.

The artist, who uses the name Samuel Mark for his work, has a fireball tattoo on his wrist and bigger biceps than most people’s thighs. He’s previously placed bags marked with the words “suspicious package” in public places as an artistic statement, and he marks trashed TVs and computer monitors with drawings of closed circuit cameras, mocking the Big Brother nature of the mayor’s possible plans to string New York with video cameras.

His bed bug work is, of course, timely, what with the recent proliferation of bed bugs in theaters, offices, and retail stores. We sat down with him to learn all about his summer of bed bugs:

What’s your real name?

Do I have to tell you? I don’t want to put my real name out there. I might even change my name to Samuel Mark just because it’s such a powerful sounding name. You know, like Samuel Mark makes his mark.

Ok, we’ll stick with Samuel Mark. Why are bed bugs your inspiration?
Actually, I’ve experienced bed bugs firsthand, and it was not a pleasant experience. The public should have more awareness regarding the situation because it’s a lot bigger than most people would actually think.

So you’re doing this to raise awareness?

I just hope it raises awareness for people to be more careful, or maybe it will start something up where we can have programs to get rid of the things for free. It’s funny, I’ve learned some interesting things. An exterminator stopped by and talked to me, and he was like, “Do you know why the bedbug population is growing? So many people are exterminating cockroaches that the bedbug population is growing.” I asked why, and he says, “Well, cockroaches eat bedbugs.”

Do you think you’ll do “save the cockroaches” art?

I could do that, but my next piece is going to be a 10×12 canvas piece on the Gulf oil spill. I’m either going to bring the wood myself and build a wall right in front of a museum or up against the side of something, right next to a museum.

Do you work during the day or at night?

In the evening, when everyone throws out their stuff, I go up to it. I look at it; I inspect it, make sure there’s no bed bugs on it, and then I start drawing on it. I also use rubber gloves.

What materials are required for bed bug art?

I use markers, spray paint, acrylic. I use all kinds of stuff, anything that I can use to mark a surface.

Do you work with anyone else?

It’s all me. It’s funny, the rug that I just hung up [on St. Marks Place] — I did it, and I laid it down on the sidewalk. There was a crowd of like 60 people watching me do it, and when I started hanging it up, the crowd started helping me hang it up. People were were, like, taking pictures and videos and stuff — it was crazy.

What effect do you hope to have?

I’ll do a big scene of bedbugs, like big and bold, and they look at it, and they’re like, “Ah! That’s disgusting!” As an artist, I’m looking to touch somebody, and my way of touching someone is to teeter them back and forth with their emotion. Maybe they went through it, and when they read what I wrote, it kind of brings them back, and because some type of positive quotation, it will always touch the soul.

Do you make money from this work?

Sometimes people are like, “What are you doing with that? Do you want to sell it?” And I’m like, “Alright, just give me something. I don’t care.” And they give me something.

Where do you see this all going?This is what I think, and it just comes out of me naturally. I’m not planning to do this for any specific reason. It’s just what it is, and I happen to be getting some good responses from it.

If you can’t wait to get your hands on bed bug art on someone’s trashed couch, try and catch Mark for a good deal. But we think his work is best appreciated on the street, where you can view it in context and at an arm’s length.

[LM]

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