Street Art Profiles: Ganzeer
One rainy day in Coney Island, I came across an intriguing mural in progress at Coney Art Walls and met Ganzeer, an unassuming artist painting diligently despite the usual chaos that is Coney Island happening on a busy Memorial Day weekend. I've become familiar with many of the artists in NYC and had never seen Ganzeer's work or style before and was mesmerized. I nerdily asked for his Instagram and, despite not having one, I still found a way to bug him by emailing for an interview. Ganzeer met with me and Marques, our photographer, out in Coney Island one sunny day after finishing his masterpiece to discuss art, politics and the meaning of his new work.
Street Artist Profiles: Ganzeer
Where are you from? Egypt
How does where you're from influence your art?
Whatever we do must be influenced by where we are from, who we are, our experiences, etc. Right now I live in LA.
How did you get into art?
I grew up drawing a lot. I was always fascinated by comic books and art on Nintendo packages, which I copied a lot in my own drawings. I started doing art seriously in college. I went to business school in Cairo, but managed to get a gig doing illustrations for a local magazine called CAMPUS, which at the time was sort of the the Egyptian equivalent of VICE magazine. Over time I also got interested in design.
My first exhibition was in 2017, called "Everyday Heroes," digital prints influenced by comic book styles, at the Townhouse Gallery. For the project, I was inspired by everyday people who get ignored. I drew them in a comicbooky superhero style. I created a garbage man, laundromat worker and delivery person, all in a heroic style that made them look legendary. I wanted to elevate people who often get overlooked and ignored.
Since then I've enjoyed learning other techniques of creating art, including traditional painting and street art. I had friends in Alexandria, Egypt who were in a street art crew. I think it was around 2008 which I paid them a weekend visit to paint together and that was my foray into street-art.
Unfortunately though I had to flee Egypt in 2014, with much of my work being critical of the military regime in the country and subsequently the Minister of Defense at the time (who is now the President). Criticism of the establishment wasn't tolerated and so I had to leave the country, and ended up in New York for about a year, before moving to LA.
What does your new mural here at Coney Island represent?
The theme is about diversity. There are four characters from different backgrounds all reading, which unites them by exposing them to knowledge outside of their comfort zones. The girl with piercings is reading "Abrahamic Religions," which you wouldn't expect, and the Hassidic man is reading "The God Delusion," an astronaut is reading "Black Power," and a Muslim girl with a bionic arm is reading "Headscarves and Hymens."
Do you have any other projects in the works?
I am working on my own graphic novel - The Solar Grid. It's a sci-fi tale that occurs after the Earth's resources are devastated, and people migrate to Mars. The Solar Grid explores issues of class, race and nationality as it delves into the process of who gets to migrate to Mars. In The Solar Grid, the Earth is turned into a solar grid to produce goods for Martians. The story follows two orphans on Earth who go through the Martians' trash, which puts them on the path to destroying the solar grid.
To find out more or donate to the book's Kickstarter, click here.
Where can people find out more about your art and follow you?