FACES OF EXPATRIATION – MEXICO
Remaining uncomfortable is a life practice for the artist, Daniel Hopkins. Creating large scale spray painted murals across the globe and forging deep connections with communities is how he examines the depth of his learning and the quality of his art. His mission is to create a deeper understanding of the relationship between our physical identities and the energy behind the substance. This non-conformist from Yonkers, NY emerged from the era of painting his name on New York City subways. Yet, his formal education at the SUNY College at Brockport is where he fused Subway Art with surrealism creating his own artistic identity and creative process, which he’s coined as Concrete Alchemy.
I was in the process of relocating to a larger space and the price of “living to create” and being inspired was just too costly in San Diego.
How difficult was it for you to leave the United States?
Leaving the US wasn’t too hard. I was in the process of relocating to a larger space and the price of “living to create” and being inspired was just too costly in San Diego. I started looking across the border on Craigslist. I found this really nice new place positioned right on the beach of Rosarito. This exquisite live work space with large windows facing the ocean spoke to my spirit. With a big open space to create and plenty of outside wall space to practice my craft of mural making it took 1 night of contemplation to convince myself it was time to exit the USA. The sound of the ocean is so perfect for making art, writing books and the personal reinvention process associated with the life of an artist.
This is my first time living in another county and fortunately Rosarito is only 35 minutes south from the American border of San Diego. Its relatively easy commuting back and forth across the border and this works perfect for me since I have a young son that resides in San Diego. The initial move from California to Baja Mexico feels like me sticking my toe into the water. It’s like I’m just checking the temperature and gauging how well I can adapt to another culture before venturing off, way off to another part of the world. My mother was always adventurous and our many spontaneous trips to various cities instilled in us this fearless leap mentality. I’d also attribute the fact that I was a Subway Artist as a teenager. Painting the name POSE 2 all over trains and sneaking into subway yards strongly influenced my hunger for adventure and challenging experiences. So it seems at an early age my mind had been seasoned to experience, learn and grow through adventure. I think these occurrences provoked a challenge within my being. Could I live anywhere in the world and successfully navigate financial and social prosperity? Hmm, challenge. So Mexico is my first step and the beginning of my journey living abroad. And as I write this article I reflect upon my juvenile days sitting on the 1 train looking up to read the drippy ink tag… “It’s A Challenge To Be Free.”
Over the past 10 years, working as an international muralist has been a vital part of my career. I want to continue to do this; however, it’s also about connecting with my neighborhood and community. The crazy thing about where I’ve relocated to is that directly across the street is the New CEART of Rosarito. CEART is an entire complex dedicated to art and culture. The opportunity to teach classes and bring events to this complex is readily available. My neighborhood is beaming with art and artists and we are in the process of creating an artist retreat coming summer 2017. The hardest part of this transition for me is learning the language and maintaining the willingness to adapt and change. The story of my life.
Over the past 10 years working as an international muralist has been a vital part of my career. I want to continue to do this; however, it’s also about connecting with my neighborhood and community.
What other countries have you worked/lived in?
Mexico is the only other country I’ve lived in thus far. However I’ve painted murals and taught workshops in Pakistan, Lebanon, Brazil, Peru, Italy, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Paris, Amsterdam, Belgium and others I may have forgotten.
What challenges do you face professionally? Culturally?
Culturally and professionally language is always a problem. Since I only speak English fluently, I need to get my language game up for real. The world is changing rapidly and I need to communicate and interact within other cultures in order to compete and cooperate.
Art is perceived differently (not just by the individual but also culturally). How is it perceived and received abroad? How does it differ from how it’s perceived/received in the States?
My art in its rawest form carries with it an identity of street culture. When I traveled to Brazil I painted my new abstract style. And they were like that’s cool and all but can you please do some letters for us? Do a classic Pose 2 piece! I did that and they loved it. In the states I felt I had to expand beyond the letter-forms to gain the type of opportunities and recognition I was shooting for.
How difficult is it for a foreigner to get their work into the mainstream abroad? Is it easier or more difficult and why?
You know what it is? It’s all about connections, relationships and if what you have is of any real value to that culture. My work really isn’t mainstream at all. So often it’s about your niche. Finding your niche market and tapping into it. I think there is a certain sense of uniqueness in being the outsider. The key is finding out how to use this to your advantage.
What advice would you give a person considering owning/operating a business abroad?
If you have a business that you think no one else has done so far find out why. Do your research because what’s hot in the States may be culturally offensive to that country or group of people. Be flexible and considerate of cultural differences.
I see traces of my African ancestry everywhere I go… and this makes me feel at home.
What are 3 things you would advise anyone considering moving abroad?
- Establish good relationships with your neighbors. You are always going to need help.
- Learn the parts of town where you should and should not travel to alone.
- Make sure you create a method of cash exchange. Meaning, how and when you will bank as well as how much cash to carry and keep in the stash at all times.
How do race relations where you are currently differ from the United States?
There are loving and prejudice people throughout the world and honestly it’s hard to make a blanket statement on how race factors in across the globe. However, I feel there is less mental oppression in other countries compared to the U.S. and as a man of African descent, I feel I receive a tremendous amount of respect and appreciation when I travel. Most importantly, I see traces of my African ancestry everywhere I go… and this makes me feel at home.
What are your thoughts of the current political climate?
Despite all that is taking place in the U.S. and the controversial new president, I think it’s a ripe time for those who see beyond fear and grasp opportunity. It’s going to take a lot of hard work to reshape our thinking and move past the distractions. But those who can see past these limitations will prosper.
What inspires your work?
My travel inspires my work. Seeing the world gives me a greater understanding of myself. This information feeds my spirit and fosters me to create works that reflect our inner connectedness.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned abroad?
Learn the language and embrace the culture. When you see yourself in everyone and everyone in yourself you realize “We Are One.”
For more information on Maxx Moses, visit www.maxxmoses.com.