Part of what made INFLUX 2015 such an exciting program was the sheer variety of artists we were able to feature. This week’s artist traveled all the way from Hawaii to share his incredible talent with the students and staff of Classical and Central high schools—and the people of Providence. We hope you enjoy hearing his story and, as always, we encourage you to share your thoughts as well!
Artist Profile: DAK.1NE
Born and raised in Waipahu, Hawaii, DAK.1NE has been working as a street artist for the past five years. His given name is Jesse Velazquez, but he goes by DAK.1NE (pronounced “Daak-one”), an homage to the traditional Hawaiian Pidgin English term “da kine,” which is used to refer to anything from a person to an abstract concept. “I wanted to put a little twist on it to give it a more writer-type feel and make it more relatable to the general public,” he explains.
Originally inspired by American graffiti, DAK.1NE started working with a local Hawaiian arts organization called 808 Urban, which promotes community-based art. He finds inspiration through old Hawaiian stories and legends, which he brings to life for everybody to learn and enjoy.
INFLUX project: Anchored
DAK.1NE is famous for his paintings of whales, which he believes are “very mystical creatures.” In traditional Hawaiian lore, whales are thought to be the animal spirits of the ancestors and the keepers of knowledge. He explains, “They hold the secrets to everything from the beginning of time, and when they dive, they bring those secrets down with them.”
In his mural “Anchored,” DAK.1NE combines the humpback whales of his native Hawaii with the sperm whales, a vital part of Rhode Island’s history. There is a mother and a calf representing each species.
“I actually took inspiration while being here in Providence, taking in the fall colors, and trying to visually depict this area on the left side of the mural,” he says. The right side features a Hawaiian-inspired landscape and the whales are symbolically intermingling in each other’s habitat. “Behind the whales is an ocean galaxy, which goes back to the whole idea of how the whales are keepers of the secrets of the universe,” he explains.
When it comes to process, DAK.1NE explains, “I just go with the flow and take inspiration from wherever it comes to me. There are times when I just tell myself, that’s it, that’s a sign and that’s what I’ve got to paint.”
Engaging students and channeling their “mana”
While in the process of painting “Anchored,” DAK.1NE, with organizational help from The Avenue Concept, engaged the local community—the high school students who pass by this mural every day—in a unique way.
He invited the students to literally become part of the mural by placing their handprints all over it, creating an underlying texture to the work.
“We have something called ‘mana’ in Hawaiian culture, which is like your energy, or your chi,” he explains. “The whole idea is that when you put your energy, or mana, into the wall you’ll take pride in what’s being created here.” Over the course of a few hours, nearly 300 students from Central High had fun adding their mana to the mural.
Giving the kids a sense of ownership is an important part of DAK.1NE’s process and his art. “My main goal is to inspire them, to give them the courage to jump out and do what they want to do.”