Phoenix Rising: Exclusive Interview With Art Phenom Skyler Grey
“Very early in my life it was too late.”
Marguerite Duras, The Lover
Often times when one suffers a great loss or tragedy, their lives become more about the unwraveling of the person that was or ‘what could have been if only.‘ Rarely are these events the backdrop of an incredible story filled with hope and light. Artist Skyler Grey has been transcending boundaries and expectations in the wake of catastrophe for years, catapulting him to the pinnacle of the art world.
And he’s only 16 years old.
One could understand how his life might have become a tale of woe woven from the strands of tragedy; a simple truth predicted by fate. “Very early in my life it was too late” could easily apply to Skyler, but it does not.
FROM THE ASHES, A PHOENIX RISES
When Skyler was two years old, the lullaby of his childhood became a funeral hymn when his mother Kristin High met a harrowing death during a sorority hazing incident. As the dark of the night swirled around her on the evening of September 9, 2002, it is alleged that Kristin and fellow pledge Kenitha Saafir, wearing only sweatpants and shoes, were blindfolded and ordered to walk into the ocean churning behind them at Dockweiler State Beach.
As a result of a lawsuit filed against the sorority by the families of the victims, a settlement which contained a financial non-disclosure clause was reached. As part of that agreement, the sorority vowed to “work harder” to end hazing.
Skyler frequently mentions his mother on his Instagram account, his touching and heart-wrenching posts (“Momma I made it! My paintings 4 stories tall“, “Mood:Missing Mom“) serving as a digital mausoleum to her, the woman whose arms he cannot recall being held within, but whose essence shines brightly from him.
The senseless and tragic loss of his mother at such a young age became a navigational beacon for Grey as his father Holman Arthurs enrolled Skyler in art therapy to help him maneuver life without his mother. The creative outlet of art became an opening to an incredible journey as Skyler’s talent blossomed.
At the age of only twelve years old, Grey dazzled Iskander Lemseffer, co-founder of Lab Art Gallery in Los Angeles, enough so that Lemseffer featured Skyler’s iconic Queen Amy images in the gallery. In a matter of a mere few hours, the works had been sold and life was transforming itself once again for Grey, this time with promise and potential illuminating the way.
Photo Credit: Paula Lauren Gibson/LA Beat
FROM THE HEART: SKYLER GREY’S WORK EXUDES OTHERWORLDLY TALENT
Driven by forces and raw talent that may be unparallelled, the work of Skyler Grey reveals immense emotional insight and wisdom well beyond what nearly any adult could fathom, let alone a teen. Inspired by the works of Andy Warhol and Keyhinde Wiley, Grey possesses an innate ability to transform the intuitive into physical masterpieces.
Holman Arthurs clearly recalls the conversations that he would have with his son regarding the genesis of Skyler’s inspiration. “I asked ‘how’d you do that?’ he answered, ‘I just remembered what saw.’”
Extremely close, the relationship between Arthurs and Skyler is often portrayed in Grey’s art. It is apparent that the two of them are bonded together not only by the loss of Kristin, but also by a connection that a great many parents never have with their children.
The wisdom and sapience of an old soul is captured in each creation that Skyler constructs. It’s impossible to view Grey’s paintings and not marvel in wonder as to how he is able to possess such expertise at such a young age.
Photo Credit: Image Source: Skyler Grey
INTERNATIONAL ACCLAIM: SKYLER GREY SHINES IN DUBAI
Dubai, being the mecca of culture and artistic expression that it is, was bound to surface on the horizon of Skyler Grey as he soared to extraordinary heights within the art world. The sixteen-year old cites artists Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring as compelling influences as Grey hones his craft.
Represented by Avant Gallery, which is based in Miami, FL, Grey recently debuted his first exhibit in the UAE, “The Wonderful World of Skyler Grey.” A capactiy crowd at Coya’s Member’s Club at the Four Seasons Resort in Dubai hosted the premier evening, which was the the artist’s first exhibition in the region. It was met with stunning success, as most of his works were sold by the end of the magical evening.
“The Wonderful World of Skyler Grey” will be on exhibition in Dubai at the Four Seasons Member’s Club and in their grand lobby through May 18th, 2016.
Photo Credit: Skyler Grey Instagram
Featuring the canvas and paper creations that have made Skyler Grey the artistic wunderkind of this generation, “The Wonderful World of Skyler Grey” brings to life iconic cartoon cartoon characters. The exhibit also contains Grey’s signature HER (Hermes) series, which he customized with views throughout Dubai for the Avant Gallery showing and sale.
Though most of the pieces were sold out on the first night as Grey’s creations commanded six figures in under two hours, you can view the collection through May 18, 2016 at The Four Seasons Dubai.
Photo Credit: Skyler Grey Instagram
The genius of Sklyer Grey will live on in Dubai long after his departure, as Coya has commissioned the artist to design a wall mural, which will become a central and permanent installation within their Member’s Club.
HRH Mohammad Bin Zayed met Skyler previous to the debut fête and received a Skyler Grey original as the two discussed art, culture and legacy before Grey’s throngs of fans descended upon the venue. Ever humble and grounded, Grey noted that the highlight of his evening was when he was told that the HER piece would have a “butterfly effect to change the perception of women in the region.”
What are the moments that the artistic prodigy cherishes the most?
You might be surprised to find out.
WHEN INNOCENCE & INGENUITY MEET: SKYLER GREY ON HIS MOST TREASURED MOMENTS
What does your average day look like?
From 8:00 in the morning until 3:30 in the afternoon I am in school. I also play baseball twice a week and I love it.
Once I’m home and my homework and chores are finished, I paint. The time that I enjoy the most is when I am creating and painting. Often my cousin, Eriq comes over and we dance, we paint and we have a good time.
On the weekends I don’t have school, so I can do more. A lot of times during the morning my dad, Kelly (my dad’s partner) and I enjoy a wonderful homemade gourmet meal of pancakes, eggs and so on. Some days, I awake early and have cereal and get right to work.
I always to to sleep at midnight, and on the weekend I love watching movies. My favorite is Goodfella’s and obviously I love documentaries, too.
What top five items comprise your desktop arsenal? Why?
Spray Paint, I love the brands Montana, Nova Color and Krink markers, house paint, Indian ink and refills, Loose Canvas, Music, and always math homework.
What is one item you just cannot live without?
Fashion! I love fashion. It’s the way artists can make even themselves a piece of art.
What are some must have art pieces for this year?
Of course, anything from my favorite artist Kehinde Wiley. I am in awe of his work. He inspired me to evolve into an artist.
Who is your greatest inspiration?
My father. I lost my mom when I was very young. My dad is my everything.
What is your favorite spot in the Dubai?
Coya Four Seasons.
For more information on Skyler Grey, visit the Avant Gallery website.
I am happy to say that Skyler Grey is the best Artist of the times. Hard work, dedication, love of fashion,giving back to the community paid off. It gives me great pleasure to own one of the first paintings Skyler Grey did at the age of 11 or 12 years old. Congratulations to the highest Skyler.
I couldn’t agree more-truly was a lovely interview to conduct and what a wonderful treasure to own one of his first paintings!
Thanks so much for reading.