This morning we wake up and continue our work on the mural. The breakfast at the hotel Berkhana is awesome! I keep getting the fried eggs and the woman who runs the cafe keeps making awesome homemade bread!
James and Anna are at the gallery already doing work. James and I go to the coffee shop (4A Coffee) and buy some more of that delicious awesome strong stuff. We walk back to the the gallery. James and I continue doing the work. We’ve let off just a little because we have to finish the work in public. Tomorrow we’re going to have all the work in the Arbat. The Arbat is the city center or central commerce district in Almaty. There will be all sorts of people watching us with the other graffiti artists. The local graffiti writers are becoming more friendly. Many of them have gotten to work on their panels. You can see a wide range of styles. I’ve learned there are two different groups of writers who seem to have different styles. For the most part everyone is pretty nice to each other. A couple of graffiti writers are doing a panel with the Kazakh theme to it. They’re doing work in the computer style like the artist Loomit from Europe. The stuff looks great! They’ve got nice backgrounds and the colors are off the Kazakhstan flag. There are silk road cities and even images of Astana all in different directions of the painting. These guys have to be some of the strongest graffiti writers I’ve seen here. These guys are in their late 20’s I imagine. For the most part the graffiti writers are in their teens and early twenties here. Some of the graffiti writers ask how long we’ve been painting. I answer somewhere around 1984 is when I started painting graffiti. I think James answers around the same time give or take a few years.
With the painting, I try to keep following James’ lead. He’s got something on his mind about how he’d like to do it. From my experience it’s best to follow his lead. This guy can really paint! During this time we chat about many things. Mostly we try to catch up on all of the lost time we’ve had. I haven’t seen James’ in like 10 years! He doesn’t look any different. A little older but he’s the same Jimmy on the Schwinn cruiser in Santa Cruz that I remember. We fill in a lot of gaps about what has happened with our friends over the years. We also get to know a little about our personal lives. I wouldn’t trade this experience in for any other the opportunity to paint with James. It brings back memories of being kids in the sewers of Santa Cruz painting our names as big as we wanted and nobody around to fuck with us. A cheeseburger and some soda and a bag of spray paint under Emeline Bridge was pure bliss. Now we’re in the middle of Central Asia painting graffiti together. I would have never believed that this would happen if you told me this 10 years ago.
I see many people from the last time I lived here. Many have come by to say hello and to look at our work. It’s painful to think I don’t have much time to see everyone.
We call it quits and we try to put our work away Slava says he’ll take care of it because he has to put everything away in a certain order. We notice many of the graffiti writers have been painting all over the neighborhood. I’m a little worried the local authorities are going to be a little angry. James and Anna go back to the hotel. I think she’s a little under the weather.
I stay to discuss some stuff with Gaisha Madanov. She’s back from Bishkek and we’ve got lots of stuff to discuss. She’s a partner in our ongoing Artpologist project. So since I’ve last seen her we’ve been working on new ideas for a project together. Zhanara and I got to sit down and chat with Aminatou in Oakland about continuing the work and this is the moment I can discuss with Gaisha about the project. We go to this little cafe and eat. The food is ok. It’s good to see Gaisha and she tells me a bit about what she knows from our work. We’ve been sending messages for the last year between the collective.
I return to the hotel Berkhana. I knock on the door to see if Anna, James and Davon are around. Nobody around. I think they went back to Saule and Kyuanish’s apartment for more dinner and drinking. I fall asleep. I dream a lot when I travel.