DISTORT, Artist Behind New Hoboken Project, Talks Inspiration Behind Mural

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If you’ve passed by 1320 Adams Street in Hoboken recently, then it’s safe to say you may have noticed the newest mural to honor the Mile Square City’s historical significance. Done by local artist DISTORT — the person behind the moniker of which prefers to remain anonymous — the mural sought to pay homage to Hoboken’s rich history.

DISTORT is known for blending classical training with the “intense creative energy of graffiti.” The Adams Street mural features depictions of historical figures like Dorothy McNeil, an African-American entertainer known for her performances at Club Zanzibar in the 60s and 70s, the American documentary photographer and photojournalist Dorothea Lange, and Maria Pepe, the one of the first girls to ever play in Little League Baseball. Also pictured are unnamed dock workers, a nod to Hoboken’s history of being hub to the ferrymen who worked the port.

“For the figures in the mural, I was looking to choose a group of people that represent Hoboken’s roots. The dock workers represent Hoboken’s history as a port city,” DISTORT tells Hoboken Girl in an email.

“Dorthea Lange, the famous photographer, is reminiscent of a time when the city was a haven for artists. Dorothy McNeil was a nightclub owner which I thought was cool since Hoboken still has an active nightlife,” DISTORT continues. “And of course Maria Pepe, the first woman to play Little League, has such a great story and image that I needed to include it.”

Interested in learning more about DISTORT’s artistic background and how Hoboken influenced the Adams Street mural? Keep reading to check out the rest of our interview with DISTORT!

READ: Hoboken Artist Ricardo Roig Lands W Hotel Residency

HG: Where did you find inspiration for this mural?

D: Having spent a good deal of time in Hoboken, I used landscapes and other images that I felt were part of the city to show the setting. Since the first steam engine was built in Hoboken, it has been a place where trains play a major role. Also present is Maxwell House Coffee which was iconic. To me, the stoop is a character of its own and has a lot of resonance with lifelong residents. I spoke with people who have lived there for longer than I have been alive and they put many things into context. I also watched a great documentary called Delivered Vacant. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about Hoboken history.

HG: Where do you usually find inspiration for your art or is it different every time?

D: There is so much mural art around that I am always getting inspired and feeling the need to improve. I like to challenge myself and each project has its own opportunities for trying out new techniques. I get inspired by the subject matter but the actual painting is fun in its own way.

distort mural hoboken 3

{Photo credit: Tim Hughes}

HG: How does the history and culture of Hoboken influence your work?

D: When making murals, I try to speak for the place it’s located. This is always different so I like to allow it to influence me. Art can be a way to inscribe history and style into a place’s identity. While thriving in many ways, it is undeniable that Hoboken’s unique culture has somewhat faded in the face of development. I made an effort to inscribe the history in a way that is still true to what exists right now.

HG: What upcoming projects do you have coming up?

D: I am looking forward to painting a body of work in my studio for a show sometime in the future. I have various mural projects as well but what I am really excited for is to hibernate away for a while and cook up something new.

distort hoboken mural 4

{Photo credit: Tim Hughes}

HG: What would you like to see happen in the Hoboken arts community in the next few years?

D: I would love to see more murals, There are lots of really good looking walls and I think the city will have an overwhelmingly positive response to more public art. I hear that there are big things to come and I believe it will happen. While there are some good programs in place already, it would be better if there were more ways to provide affordable housing or studio space for artists.

HG: What’s your favorite part about doing these type of long-form murals?

D: I like to be able to work big so that I can loosen up. Spray paint is amazing for shading on a large scale and it feels rewarding when it goes well. Its also fun to see it come together from beginning to end. I couldn’t have done this project without the help from a very talented painter, Hiro Hubbard, and my workaholic manager, Alison Remy Hall, as well as Geri Fallo and everyone from Cube Smart, the city and arts community.

See More: Local Hoboken Artists’ Scenes to Hang in Your Home

What do you think of the new mural? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

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Steph Osmanski is a freelance writer who specializes in sustainability and health and wellness content. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Stony Brook Southampton.