“Going over the haters”
Art and answers from the one and only DOLLA.
A couple months ago, we got an email out of the blue from someone who seemed to be calling himself the “DOLLA LAMA.” He humbly introduced himself and asked that we check out his art. We did, and it was love at first sight: this was not just bold, iconic street-art. It was bold, iconic street-art with an undeniable Dharma-angle to it.
“DOLLA LAMA,” it turns out, is the handle given to a particular “campaign” of art, by a multifacted artist and designer who goes by the tag of “DOLLA.” Here, DOLLA sits down with the Horse to share and explain his art and a little bit more about the man behind the moniker. Dig it. (And if you really dig it, follow the link at the end of this article to download and print your own DOLLA LAMA stencils.)
How did you get started in street art?
I got bit by the hip hop bug at an early age. I started tagging around age 12 or 13.
i’ve messed around with graffiti on and off for most of my life. it wasn’t until about 6 or 7 years ago that i started getting into street art. I started out making hand-drawn stickers with braggadocio-style sayings on them, then focused on drawing character stickers. a friend taught me how to screen print and i moved on to making vinyls.
It seems like most of your art is “displayed” via stickers and paste-ups. Is that right?
yeah, I put up stickers daily. I always have a stack on me, where ever i go i’m leaving my mark. My favorite is definitely poster bombing. nothin like seein a huge poster at a busy intersection. high-traffic areas are mostly what i shoot for. I like the idea of getting thousands of people seeing my art a day. I’m a sticker junkie, but they are usually too small to see if you are driving. My smallest posters are 3′ tall and get as big as 9′ (no problem seeing them at all).
Obviously, the Dalai Lama himself is a recurring symbol / motif / icon of your work, especially your “Dolla Lama” campaign. How did that come about?
well, about 4 years ago I was doing a lot of DOLLA stickers. I was making all hand made stickers at the time. a lot of people were starting beef with me and dissing my stickers. I kinda started taking it personal. it sounds silly to me now but I was spending a lot of time on these stickers and I would get heated when people wrote on ’em or added a penis to my characters.
One person in particular was trying to get fame by dissing everything i put up. I wasted a lot of time and energy going tit for tat with this guy. I was getting consumed by the feeling of hatred and wanting to get revenge. I finally switched it around and started 2 sticker campaigns. the first was the “you love to hate” campaign. I started printing vinyl stickers of famous people that were getting hated on. like pee wee herman, paris hilton, etc. with “you love to hate dolla” printed on em.
the second was the DOLLA LAMA campaign. I drew a picture of the dalai lama and started putting quotes or words of wisdom on his forehead and printing them. I originally used these stickers to go over the haters, It made me feel better. Soon I was starting to get some positive feedback from the messages i was putting out there with the lama stickers, i just kept doin more and more, and still make them today.
You seem to have latched onto something which is actually quite traditional in Buddhism: the use of aspirational slogans. But the way you use them in your work is very non-traditional. Do you ever get a hard time for that?
Its weird, some people love the message and some see what i do as a cheap gimmick. Some people got very offended by my Obey/Giant-like sticker with the dollar sign on the dalai lama’s head. I heard a story about this girl who tore down one of my stickers and set it on fire. Man the last thing I’m trying to do is piss people off with these stickers and posters. I guess I can see where they are coming from, but angering people is not my intention for this campaign. First and foremost I am spreading the wisdom of the dalai lama.
How do you pick your slogans?
as far as picking the slogans: I have a book of 365 quotes “words of wisdom” by the dalai lama. one for every day of the year. i use what strikes a chord with me at the time.
And the significance of changing “Dalai” to “DOLLA”?
DOLLA is my tag. It’s just a play on words.
Do you consider yourself a Buddhist? Do you meditate or try to keep up any other kind of practice?
I was raised roman catholic, but i haven’t practiced religion for about 15 years or so. I find Buddhism very interesting and the things that i have read make me strive to be a better person. I would like to try meditation. My only practice (now) is trying to maintain a balance.
What are you working on now?
I am in the middle of a few projects. I am working on 3 new freight train benches. All the welding has just been completed. Now I am finishing up the wood work.
Then i will begin painting them I am designing 2 murals for local shops that i will have done by next month. What i have been focused on lately is getting ready for a stencil show in Lauderhill FL at the bear and bird gallery that opens June 16th (2007). I will have 4 new paintings in the show.
You also do commercial work, right?
For my 9 to 5 job i manage a display company. I am the head designer and fabricator. I do a lot of work for Disney and other tourist attractions around the world. I have only been getting a few commercial jobs a year. my most recent job was designing 5 characters for a hip hop website.
Culturally, where do you find inspiration or enjoyment?
I am into going to art shows when i break away from the lab. Its always good to see people’s new works.
I listen to a lot of diff. music. but the majority of my collection is rap. some of my favorite artists are Wu-Tang, Gravediggaz, MF Doom, Madlib, Kool Keith, A Tribe Called Quest. I still listen to a lot of old school stuff like UTFO, Newcleus, etc. And I’m a pretty big movie watcher. my all time favorite flick is The Warriors. Some others are GUMMO, Julian Donkey Boy, Freaks, Boondock Saints, Ghost Dog, Twilight Zone, Reservoir Dogs, Blood in Blood Out, Carlitos Way. I also like silly comedies.
What’s your dream project?
I would definitely like to get my own TV show off the ground; a puppet show or a cartoon. I recently signed on as a designer for Secret Legion Productions, which is an animation company at Universal Studios. We just did a pitch for a big network, but they passed on the project. If we got it, it would have been a dream come true for sure.
Click HERE for printable, useable DOLLA LAMA stencils, brought to you by Dolla and the Horse.