This fall, Andre Shank, an artist from Richmond who works under the name Bombproof, made a trip to the Valley to paint a mural in tribute to Harrisonburg, his hometown. (He and I served together with distinction in the EMHS Class of 2000.) After a bit of brainstorming, a duck was chosen as a fitting subject for the project: ubiquitous, endearing, revolting, tenacious, sometimes fed and loved by Harrisonburgers, sometimes mowed down without mercy on our streets.
Like a duck in Harrisonburg, the mural doesn’t exist in a prominent or particularly pretty place. But as a duck in Harrisonburg does, it now makes its non-prominent and non-pretty place a little bit brighter.
His organic, even chaotic compositions are disorienting in a way that challenge the viewer. There is something remarkably engaging that happens as the work reveals its own layers and mysteries. Scale plays a large role, as much of his recent work has been murals, but he can’t be pinned as simply a “street artist.” … His references to Egyptian mythology advance the complexity of the work rather than muddle it or distract from it as references in art often do … The name Bombproof begets a certain mysteriousness, but like his work it is a mysteriousness that for whatever reason you half know or understand. The quality of his work seems crystal clear though, and it is saying a few things very loudly, namely, this Virginia artist is incredibly talented and he doesn’t appear to be taking any breaks or slowing down, and that is exciting.
Check out more of Bombproof’s work here.
And a short Q&A with the artist:
OSH: How would you describe your art?
BMBPRF: Describing my work is difficult for me. As a joke I sometimes call it un-photo realism or new cubism. But it probably falls into what is being called street art. Most of my paintings are freestyle/stream of consciousness and ultimately I draw and paint stuff I think will look cool. I include references to inspirations but not anything too deep and meaningful, the main goal being that the viewer would think that it looks cool. I try to make art that I would think is pretty sweet.
OSH: What is it about murals that interests you?
BMBPRF: Murals interest me for a couple of reasons. First is size. I like going big. I’ve never been into small art. I like how with bigger works you can make something that looks one way from a distance and then totally different up close. For me bigger is better. I also like the performance aspect of murals. You’re not in your studio where you can mess up a hundred times and it doesn’t matter. You’re out in the open, people are watching. It’s a rush. It reminds me of playing sports. It’s just that much sweeter when you pull something off and people are there experiencing it with you. For me it’s a very cool feeling.
OSH: Are you self-taught? What are your biggest artistic influences? What’s with the name Bombproof?
BMBPRF: I am self-taught. And I’m still learning new stuff every time I paint. I’ve always been creative but hadn’t ever really pushed myself until recently. I’ve been painting seriously since the summer of 2012 and am really having a blast doing it. I think it shows in my work that I’m having a lot of fun.
My biggest influences are the 123klan and the Warhol-Basquiat pieces. Also I really like the collage work of Adam Juresko. His stuff blows my mind. I really like the artwork of the Mayans and the Egyptians too.
In 2010 I needed to set up a small business for some subcontracting I was doing at the time. I had always liked the term “bombproof.” I’m pretty sure I picked it up from Daniel Patterson when we used to rock climb. So I started this company called bombproof and then the economy tanked and so did the business. In 2012 when I wanted to start posting the paintings I was making I just used the Facebook page, Bomb Proof, that I had originally set up for the business. It was helpful to have a bit of anonymity in the beginning because I really had no idea what I was doing. It helped me try new things and not be afraid to fail. Now it’s just a cool name. But it wasn’t something I came up with for my work. It all happened accidentally.
OSH: How long did you live in Harrisonburg? What are your thoughts on the place now?
BMBPRF: I lived in the Borg for the first 22 years of my life. I grew up with some really awesome friends that I’m still really close to. Honestly, Harrisonburg seems to get cooler and cooler every time I visit. You guys have some really cool things happening. It would be nice to see some murals go up. I’d love to be a part of that happening.