Tag Archives: eddiecolla

The Road

A Tuesday, September 22, 2020. It arrived as a newspaper headline. 200,000 Americans had died of a preventable disease. We take note of large round numbers like these. They have impact. They are the notches on rulers and the lines on thermometers. I never really trust the psychology of numbers. They are treacherous, manipulative things, numbers. Why is 200,000 more significant than 198,534 or 203,568? Why does $5.99 feel like 5 dollars and not 6? Numbers are good at deceit because of their specificity.
There is something of seeming importance about thresholds. They represent a major change, when in fact that change is often minute or marginal. It’s a perception of change. I learned this a long time ago, standing with one foot in New Mexico and one foot in Arizona. They were the same, indistinguishable. Same earth, same view, same place. I had attached a definition to 2 virtually identical patches of land based on some arbitrary definition.
All it takes to cross into the realm of 200,000 deaths is for one more person to die. Who was it? Did they ever wonder if they would be the one that ushered in 200,000? It’s a small change but a numerical threshold. Dissimilar to May when we had reached 100,000 dead. That threshold seemed, in some ways more heartbreaking and certainly more shocking. In the 4 months since, I had changed. I had acclimated to this magnitude of death. While 100,000 deaths seemed unthinkable last Spring, 200,000 seems not surprising this Fall. Perhaps it even feels expected. I had gotten used to it, it had become normal.
Six months ago the idea of 1200 or 800 or 2000 fellow citizens dying daily seemed like domain of science fiction or war. This was neither. These tragic and horrific images appeared to belong to a bygone era. I had begun to believe in our false invulnerability. In a post modern world, in America, it was hard to imagine that kind of loss. We don’t have to imagine it anymore.
I wake up everyday, I look at the news and count the dead. I stopped reacting months ago. This disturbs me, because it makes me call into question who I think I am. Am I someone who counts the dead every morning while drinking coffee, disaffected? I wouldn’t have thought so. Perhaps I was wrong about me.
Those numbers though, they can play tricks on you. When 84 people had died in Wuhan, in many ways that seemed more real. I can visualize 84 people, I actually know 84 people. There is a equivalent substitution where I can relate the 84 people to a personal experience. I can remember being in a bar with around 84 people or a restaurant. I can remember faces and groups. When I can reference an experience, I can feel it.
200,000 people…what does that even mean? What does that look like? I have nothing to compare it to. It is an abstract number. One of the treacheries of numbers is that they can steal your humanity- perhaps not intentionally, but merely as a consequence. There is something vulgar about counting people, alive or dead. This has always bothered me. Counting is such a deficient way of marking existence that it is offensive. Large numbers become quite literally unimaginable. What does a million dollars look like? What do 330 million people look like? I don’t like things I can’t create a visual of in my mind.
I often do exercises to explain things to myself, to create a language I can understand. I once tried to calculate how many people were sitting in one mile of traffic on a 3 lane highway, because “traffic” seems like a vague notion. When I could reference it by the number of people idly sitting in their cars, wasting a certain amount of time, and relate that to thousands of people losing some piece from the bigger story of their lives, then, I can in some way understand it’s gravity.
I needed to explain these 200,000 people to myself.
So I created “The Road”. The Road is an imaginary place where I might approach feeling the impact of the past 6 months. I’ve measured it, done the math, and walked it in my mind over and over again. It’s an exercise in reversing the anesthetic effects of a pandemic.
At the start of the road there is a body, a victim of COVID-19. Next to that body is the next victim, side by side, and this goes on for 200,000 people. That’s the road. On average, every 22 inches there’s another body marking the absence of another life. It goes on like that for 69.4 miles. I close my eyes and try to walk it, carefully, considerately taking note of each face and each life. I never finish. I imagine finishing, but I never actually make it. I can’t. By my best estimate it would take me about 23 hours to walk that 69.4 mile road. With each step appears another face, another body, another set of ideas and plans and desires that abruptly ended. No explanation, no consolation- a life that simply ceased to be. That’s a long road to walk, even in my imagination. Every step of that 69.4 mile walk, presents a life, and memories that disappeared like smoke in a breeze. Every face unique, every story unique. Never to be repeated in quite the same way.
There’s this stone that sits on my chest when I imagine the road. A weight that swells into a panic, and a crescendo of helpless remorse and ineffectuality. For all we have lost, of each other and of ourselves, the finality of it is insurmountable. Yet, life goes on, often ridiculously.
This same Tuesday, the world was abuzz about the future of Tik Tok. The president spit blame across his podium, Jeff Bezos increased or decreased his net worth by some percentage. Those were headlines. Of course there were numbers also. 800 and some odd people. They were alone, tended by strangers, healthcare workers, cloaked in masks and shields and hazmat suites. Almost unrecognizable as fellow humans. I’d like to believe they could see each other’s eyes. I’d like to believe they could recognize each other’s humanity, if only for that fleeting moment. I’d like to believe 800 something people didn’t simply leave this world, completely alone, separated as pariahs. I’d like to believe that.
You might be considering, at this point, why I even do this seemingly morbid exercise. Why I even attempt to walk the road. I don’t have a specific answer. I confess, it feels futile and I feel utterly helpless in all this. It’s not something I am proud of, but it’s honest. I simply don’t know what to do. I walk the road as best I can, in honor, and at the very least, in recognition of this immeasurable loss. They say you truly die when the last person who holds a thought of you dies…
Perhaps, I walked the road to remember the life of someone I never met, in the hope that one day someone will walk the road for me.

After forsaking you, they will call you hero in their speeches

This release drops Thursday Oct. 15th at 9am PST.


In the Spring of this year, when there were massive PPE shortages among frontline COVID workers, I started contacting friends in China, Hong Kong and Cambodia to see if I could buy masks and supplies to donate to some of the hardest hit areas. While the United States government dragged its feet, unable to offer even basic protection to health care and other essential workers, I, as an ordinary citizen, was able to purchase around 1000 masks and distribute them to hospitals in need. It wasn’t particularly difficult, this administration simply lacked the will to protect the very people who were keeping us safe and risking their own well being. I spoke with hospital workers at the time who were reusing disposable masks for 4-5 days of 12 hour shifts. The very people who risked their own health everyday to keep us safe could not even be provided with the most basic items to allow them to perform their work safely.

This print “Forsake” is in response to that experience. “After forsaking you, they will call you hero in their speeches” is written across each image. It’s indicative of the sanctimonious gestures of this administration and politicians in general. While the essential workers were little more than an afterthought, their efforts are co-opted as public relations campaigns for leaders who failed to lead.

1Xrun and myself will use 100% of the purchase price of these to procure PPE and distribute it this coming Fall. Many in the medical field have suspected there may be a second wave of COVID this Fall. If I have learned anything from the Spring, it is not to assume this administration has any sort of plan or is even moderately prepared for this. Together, 1xrun and myself would like to be out in front of this and help. Should there be a second wave, the funds from the sale of this work will have created a small stockpile of PPE that we can quickly distribute to the facilities that need them most. That is the very least we can offer in appreciation of the relentless efforts of frontline workers.

By purchasing this print you are actually purchasing PPE to keep these workers safe and helping us stay prepared for the coming months.

Eddie Colla

Buy it here: https://www.1xrun.com/collections/forsake/

About the Print: There are 2 different versions of this print.

The first is a 16×20 inch giclee. Signed and numbered- edition of 50

The second are hand painted multiples 18×24 signed and numbered-Edition of 10

The HPMs are acetone transfer prints finished and stained with tinted shellac each is a unique piece.

Conception Vs Reception

I’ve been asked why I chose to make the above piece regarding racism. I didn’t exactly. I made a piece called “The Residue of Arrogance” which was mostly about my growing discontent with the United States and my choice to spend most of my time abroad. That decision had a lot to do with the direction in which my country has moved post 9/11. Certainly racism plays a role in those objections, but it was a much broader view of many consequences.
The thing that I find most interesting about the piece is what it has shown me. Many people have concluded that the piece is about racism. I imagine it has to do with my choice of using an African American model. Had I used a white model, I assume people’s reading of it would be different. However, based on people’s reactions, it is entirely clear how most people view the United States. Juxtapose an American Flag and an African American and the conclusion many people will make is that it is, of course, about racism. That’s how connected the image of the United States is to racism, it’s something people assume. What I was trying to convey was an erosion of freedoms and self censorship in a post 9/11 America. However, even in 2017 (which is when I made the original piece) the simple addition of a different skin color leads many people to assume an entirely different meaning. So, in it’s conception it wasn’t focused on racism, but in it’s reception it has become very much about race. This is how the piece talks back to me about it’s context.
As an artist, you begin to see the complexity of representation. In my mind the figure in the piece was simply an individual, an American. Yet because the figure is African American, to many people, the “individual” becomes a representation of an entire race of people. Isn’t that exactly what racism is? When people’s individual identity is eclipsed by their race?

Mural from Kings Spray festival with Streetarttoday in 2017

“Without Excuse” Hand Painted Edition Release

Type: Hand-Embellished Archival Pigment Print on 290gsm Moab Fine Art Paper

Size: 18 x 24 Inches

Edition Size: 40

Available HERE at 1XRUN

“Without Excuse” is a piece I made while I was at the Jardin Orange artist residency in Shenzhen, China in 2018.

I spent a lot of time in Shenzhen, roaming around abandoned buildings collecting old signs and posters and billboards. I don’t read Chinese, so I had no idea what was written on any of these things. I also never asked anyone to interpret any of it until pieces were completed. What I was trying to do was tell something about a place through what was discarded or left behind, while also juxtaposing that with some of my salvage portraits. Much of the material in this piece came from an abandoned office building at the beginning of August 2018. By the time I left Shenzhen, the building was well on it’s way to being apartments. Things change fast in Shenzhen.

The original piece is 50×66 inches (125 x 168cm) on a section of vinyl billboard I found being used as a tarp in the abandoned office building. The title “Without Excuse” comes from the line of small text just to the left of the figures head which literally says “Refuse to accept excuse” which was pinned to an office wall. The large main text in red and blue translates as “wonderful exquisite life”. Additional pieces collaged onto the piece read “Crane for rent”, “Make more money”, “Good business and prosperity”, and there is even a small newspaper headline about “President Xi”. In some ways these discarded things do describe the ethos of Shenzhen. Shenzhen was China’s first Special Economic Zone, an experiment by China with market capitalism. It is literally a manufactured city. In 1979 in was little more then a fishing village with a population of 60,000. 40 years later, it is a city of 13 million and the manufacturing center of the world. Shenzhen is at the center of China’s exponential economic growth. It is a boomtown like no other. In many ways the random text I collected illustrate the dream that Shenzhen presented; hard work, wealth, business development. In that sense, it was my most successful experiment in telling the story of a place by combining random discarded things. Things whose meanings were only told to me after the piece was finished. The addition of the Salvage portrait makes the piece a cautionary tale about the fragility of that unbridled growth. The age old boom to bust scenario that we never really seem to accept as more than coincidental or circumstantial.

Each of these prints have been hand painted and contain the number of the edition in Chinese characters at the bottom right corner. Near the left edge, the edition number is also painted into the existing background in English. Making these 40 variations was one of the most enjoyable studio projects I have done in recent years.

Eddie Colla

New Salvage cans

New salvage cans go on sale January 8th at 9am PST HERE. I made this series of cans when I was in China last year. I had been waiting for supplies to arrive for to start working on larger pieces. The residency where I was had kept all their empty spray cans. I started making these small pieces from the used spray cans. It wasn’t anything I planned, I just had an unexpected amount of free time waiting for my materials to arrive so I worked with what was available. I often make pieces from recycled materials for many reasons. First off I like that I am using material that would otherwise be discarded and end up in a landfill. Also there is a previous history to these objects. A purpose and a separate life that existed before they, by chance, ended up being used to create something new. Their discarded quality mirrors some of the characters i create in the Salvage portraits. It makes more sense to me than a piece of white canvas.

These are 15 individual pieces. They are not editioned multiples. Each is hand done and there is only one of each. They are signed and dated on the bottom of the can.

Street Art City – Lurcy-Lévis, France

In July, I traveled from Paris, with Nite Owl, to Lurcy-Lévis in the center of France to participate in Street Art City. Street Art City is a complex of buildings that were once some kind of training facility for the phone company (or something like that), and has long since been abandoned. About 3 years ago the new owners started inviting urban artists to come to the complex and make murals, do installations and create a room at hotel 128. Hotel 128 is an old dormitory type building containing 128 small individual rooms on 4 floors. Every room has been taken over by an artist. Below is mine.

I worked, as much as possible, with existing materials from the room. Shower doors, broken sinks, clusters of light bulbs. An important aspect for me was to reapply sections of the removed wallpaper over areas of the portraits. I didn’t want these to feel as though they had been installed, but rather that these images were always there, under that veneer of wallpaper. I wanted the images to feel as if they perhaps predated the buildings utilitarian phase and were now, after all these years, uncovered. That idea runs parallel to the idea of the salvage portraits. Presenting not an evolutionary change, but a regression. Presenting atavisms. Traits in people that had long been dormant, strands of DNA that still exist is us, but have become obsolete in a post modern civilization. Traits that still exist under the facade of civilized society, which can be reawakened, given an extreme environmental change.

On the radiator in the room I wrote “Entering a period of consequences” as a sort of warning about the fragility of all these structures we have grown dependent on.

It was an interesting week, surrounded by these images in this tiny room, in an abandoned building miles from anything.

Lurcy-Lévis is centered in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Getting cigarettes was a 90 minute walk round trip. Surrounded by Corn and Cows, an ironic place to showcase urban art. It offers many artists a place to work free from the distractions of ordinary life, urban life; it’s peaceful. That said, places like this scare me, rural places. I am not a country person. It’s too quiet, it gets too dark at night- it’s too summer-camp slasher movie for me. It took some acclamation on my part. But being outside of your comfort zone is always a good thing.

I got to spend some unrushed time with the homies Nite Owl and Rachel Riot. Also got to know a few solid guys from Barcelona Sebastien Waknine, Simón Vázquez and Zeso. Making art is obviously the reason I travel as much as I do. The thing I value the most about that travel is the people I meet, the stories they tell and these unlikely little places like Lurcy-Lévis that I would have never seen if I wasn’t making art

Cacophony and GFL 5 Release on 1XRUN

These pieces go on sale May 14th at 9am PST. Cacophony is 18×18 inches laser cut 3/4 inch acrylic stacked in 3 layers. GFL-5 is an 18×18 inch print on 290gsm Moab fine art paper. They are available HERE


The Goldfish girl (who is the same character as the bike girl) was created almost a decade ago. I often revisit it, and she has been longest continuing character I’ve created. I often write back stories for these characters to help me create the pieces, but they are generally never shared with the viewer.

The Goldfish girl was born in mainland China, and raised mostly by a single father. Her mother passed away when she was 18 months old from cancer. She was often very ill as a child, and was eventually diagnosed with a compromised immune system disorder, although a precise diagnosis was never given. However, something even as harmless as a common cold would escalate to further respiratory complications or pneumonia rather quickly as her body had no defense mechanism against these things. This is the reason for always wearing the mask and gloves. She was hospitalized often and resuscitated several times as a child. As a result, she could not attend school with other children and was home schooled by her father.

Her father bred Goldfish for a living and taught her that trade as a kid. They worked side by side and rarely had visitors because of her condition. Goldfish rarely occur in nature, and are actually a result of a genetic mutation in silver carp. Because of their beautiful color and rarity, they began being bred and sold about 1500 years ago. They are, for the most part, a result of steering the hand of nature.

Often being extremely ill and also losing her mother made her childhood difficult. As most children do, she tried to find a reason for her misfortune, a reason for why all this had happened to her and her father. Eventually, she believed that her illness and her mother’s cancer were a punishment by nature. A curse for toying with nature by breeding goldfish. Her family had toyed with nature, and she believed that now, nature was toying with them. She never shared that thought with her father because she felt it would indirectly place the blame for all this misfortune on him.

When she was 11 and extremely ill and hospitalized, she asked her father “Why don’t I just give up? This is too hard. I think we need to accept that this is my fate; it is my fate to die” Her father became angry and replied “Fate? Do you know what fate is? It is the result of a life unattended, it is what happens when you do nothing” He needed to give her a reason to keep trying, a challenge. He continued “We can cheat fate, create our own fate and all you have to do to cheat fate is live another day. Every day that you do that, you have won, not fate”

That was the conversation that shaped the rest of her life, that was her mission, to survive and deny nature its punishment.

Eventually, her father passed away as well. Needing to make a living and also to taunt fate she illegally immigrated to Hong Kong. There is a famous goldfish market in Mong Kok on Tung Choi street, but it’s commonly called goldfish street. With a compromised immune system the most dangerous thing to her was other people. As a challenge to fate she moved to one of the most densely populated cities in the world. She got a stall on Tung Choi street. This is her challenge, to taunt fate and win, becoming the master of her own fate.

These images are vignettes of her life in Hong Kong. I’ve never given the character a name. Often the pieces are accompanied by the text “I have a name, but it doesn’t matter” That phrase is to express her belief that life is not about who we are, life is about what we do. She is pictured always alone. Sometimes she is on a bike as crowded public transportation poses to big a risk. Sometimes she is pictured with a boombox because music becomes a central companion to her mostly solitary life. In the piece Cacophony I wanted her to literally be surrounded by the city. There are many more specifics to the story, but I wanted this character to be a vehicle for ideas about self determination, finding meaning in life and playing the hand you are dealt even when it’s a piss poor hand. In some way I think I tried to create a character that embodied a lot of traits I aspire to. To remind myself.

“Radio Yau Ma Tei” Print release @ 1xrun.com

Radio Yau Ma Tei is my newest that I created specifically for release at 1xrunImage. After talking with Jesse at 1xrun we decide we wanted to do something different from a typical limited edition. These print started out as giclees on 300lb acid free water color paper. After that there were really embellished in a lot of different ways. Every print was drawn on with pencils, markers and mop pens and part of the image were overpainted with acrylics. They were then tea stained and airbrushed in 6 different colors. At this point the prints were distressed using sandpaper and steel wool and the text was screen printed onto the image. The test roughly translates as “I have a name but it doesn’t matter”

In addition to the 20 embellished prints there were an additional 3 prints made with the text gold leafed in 22kt gold. This print will be released on 1xrun.com on April 25th. You can see it here