At Dr. Martens, Pride is an opportunity to celebrate everything we stand for – diversity, empowerment and rebellious self-expression. Across America, we continue our tradition of supporting and honoring the LGBTQ+ community with our 2019 Pride boot (learn more about the boot and our support of The Trevor Project here).
Last year, we were honored to work with Brooklyn artist Mohammed Fayaz who’s illustrative work documents his community of queer and trans people of color. This year, Mohammed returned to interview his friend, DonChristian Jones while he painted a mural at Dr. Martens’ NYC store in Union Square. Don is a rapper, songwriter, producer, and professionally trained painter. In addition to his personal body of work, Don dedicates his time to teaching and working with youth; he currently leads a summer intensive course at Sotheby’s Institute about art as a protest. Keep reading to learn more about the artist and see the mural he created.
Photography by Justin J Wee
Hey Don, nice to see you, I’m glad we’re doing this. Can you introduce yourself?
DonChristian: Sure! My name is DonChristian, I’m an artist from Philly. I’ve lived and worked in New York City for six years now – teaching, painting, performing, producing, rapping, and singing.
M: Let’s explain how we know one another. We met at Papi New Year,
D: Papi New Year!
M: It was 2013 going into 2014
D: At One Last Shag
M: At One Last Shag in Brooklyn, New York. I wasn’t part of the crew yet, but I did the artwork, and I remember writing your name real big on the poster. “DonChristian Live” – it was very sensational.
D: It was super fun. I fell in love with all of you guys, as a collective, with the party, with the graphics, all of the aesthetics, it was like – love at first sight.
M: It was New Year’s Eve and it was our first time having a live performance.
D: Yeah, I was your first live performer.
M: We had this tiny stage but you had such a huge presence, it was really cool.
D: Thank you.
M: Next question. What do you enjoy about one another as individuals and artists?
D: That’s easy for me. I just love the visual language that you have created. You have pioneered a new visual language that is rooted and founded in New York City, in queer culture, – aw I’m tearing up – it’s just really profound. I think it inspires me to be a better artist.
M: Thank you. Wow, that’s really sweet. What I really enjoy and more importantly admire, about your work is how diverse it is; in terms of being multidisciplinary. When I first met you, I thought you were a singer-songwriter and performer. Then I started to understand that you were trained in dance and painting and that you worked with youth. I started to understand that you were doing all of these things and realized how they all tied together. No one thing takes away from the other, but actually informs it. I started to understand the larger picture of your practice – it’s inspiring to branch out and not just do one thing.
I’m not just be an illustrator and event organizer – I do 25 things and I’m very good at all of them.
D: You sure do.
M: Thank you. They all inform each other and talk to one another. Which is also really nice to see in your work.
M: Okay, tell us about your artwork in general. Preferred medium, personal style, etc.
D: At this point, I think all of my work falls under the umbrella of performance. That’s how I view it and perceive it myself. So whether I’m painting, on stage, teaching, moving – I think of it as performative. Especially mural work, if I’m painting outside or I’m in the public realm, that is a performance.
M: Yeah, I love that.
M: Tell us about the artwork you created for Dr. Martens’ windows and the inspiration behind it.
D: I just wanted to create something that was not only graphic and vibrant, but founded in black, brown, and trans identities – because to me, and I think many of us, we understand them to be the beginnings of, the impetus, the origin, of the movement. It’s coming from people that were marginalized, and still are. I wanted it to be centered around those figures.
M: Amazing. I think it’s going to be really nice for people to walk by and kinda, clock the figures, and get a little closer with the details, the white outlines…
D: There’s the new age Kiki voguers, there’s the old wave voguer, there’s some trans femme identifying folx.
M: And for it to be downtown in Union Square, I feel like it’s just so relevant, with it so close to the pier, it’s very very relevant.
M: What, are some of the challenges when creating artwork of this size? I’m thinking about what you said about performance, not only artwork of this size, but also in public…
D: Well, I think large public works are freeing for me. The bigger, the more freeing almost because your gesture could be that much bigger, wider, or more vast. Painting in public, or doing anything in public, is a challenge because everyone has an opinion. Everyone wants to be a part of it, so you really have to engage – at least if you want to make something that is authentic or community oriented. So when people ask questions, or they criticize, or they say they like it, you talk back. There were a couple families that walked by with little kids and if they said they liked it or “oohh” or “ahh” I handed them the paint pen and let them draw a little bit.
M: What do you love most about Pride Month?
D: That’s a loaded question. Because you know, a lot of these months, you know, sometimes they feel a little cheesy or corny in their design. But Pride, the feeling of Pride, is inescapable. It kind of just overtakes you. You go to any of the borough Prides and you can feel it in the air, how happy and excited people are to celebrate themselves, their identity, their expression. So it’s infectious, it’s contagious, and even though I’m averse to the corny sometimes, I’m caught up in it.
M: My favorite thing I’ve noticed, especially at the borough parades, is the families. People come out with their kids, and their younger siblings, and their cousins. It’s actually one of the most all ages event for queer folx, ever.
D: It’s so family oriented. And it’s so exciting to see families, parents, and their kids enjoying this month together. It gives me hope for the future.
M: What has surprised you the most about the work you have done with youth?
D: I would say the levels to which I learn from them. You know, you go into these spaces of education, thinking you’re going to impart this knowledge or this curriculum, and I feel like I leave learning more from them than they do from me.
D: Also, just their resilience, their creativity, their ingenuity, is mind-blowing. It makes me feel like I have to work that much harder.
M: Mhm, wow. Okay, a fun question. What is your go-to snack when working on these long term murals?
D: This is embarrassing but my go-to snack for any occasion is gummies.
D: Fruity, sour gummies.
M: Yum, cute.