By Danielle D’Onofrio | Impressionist
Everyone needs a little extra love on Valentine’s Day and Loft is bringing us just that with its collaboration with artist Chris Uphues. It was love at first sight when the Loft team spotted Uphues’s whimsical graffiti hearts around Brooklyn and decided he would be the perfect partner for Valentine’s Day. Together the artist and retailer launched a “Live in What you Love” collaboration which features Uphues’s playful and colorful heart designs in adorable limited edition t-shirts that we know will steal your heart. To kick off the partnership the retailer opened up several of its windows to the venturesome artist for him to use as an installation.
Uphues is no stranger to installations as he is a Brooklyn-based fine artist with a number of gallery exhibits under his belt who has explored artistic mediums from drawing and painting to animation and comic books. In the 90s Chris began expressing his talent through street art, where he developed his well-known “Hearts” designs. Chris’s “Hearts” can be found mainly in Chicago and New York, but now due to his work with Heart to Heart International and their outreach program with children, the “Hearts” can now be seen on every continent.
On the eve of Valentine’s Day, we spoke with artist Chris Uphues about Loft, love, hearts and his pet monkey Del.
Chris, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. I’d love to hear the story of how your artwork was found by Loft.
They were shooting around ideas for Valentine’s Day and some people on their team had seen my artwork in Brooklyn. They thought that my artwork was interesting and really liked it. Someone on the team knew who I was and through a friend of a friend they managed to track me down. They pitched their idea to me and I was really into it. It seemed like a fun project and I had never done something on such a huge scale before. Loft was great to work with. They gave me as much freedom as I wanted and as much support as I needed.
I heard you did some traveling recently. You went up to Chicago and did some store windows, am I correct?
Yes. I went up to Chicago and did a big mural in one of the Loft stores and another team was doing these big decals of my heart designs on the store windows. It came out looking great!
Have you ever done store windows before?
I did, but it was for smaller boutique brands. I’ve painted murals on the outside of buildings before and I had done some big paper cut outs for windows, but this was the first big, national brand that I have worked with.
Had you thought of partnering with a big retail brand before Loft got in touch with you?
You know, I never really considered it. I’m a small one- or two-person operation and I haven’t done commercial work before. I come from the gallery world and from there my work grew in many different directions. I have done everything from comics, toys, animation and video games to now working with brands. But originally, I began painting and drawing.
How did you create the heart message?
Honestly that was an accident. I have always done real poppy artwork. In the late 90s I was living in Chicago and had friends involved in the street art scene. I noticed a lot of what was being made was super aggressive or trying to be edgy by eliciting a reaction. I was kind of lukewarm on the whole thing so I thought it would be fun to make a softer type of graffiti. I tried out a bunch of different characters, but the heart design immediately caught on and really popped against the urban landscape. The simple face combined with the universal shape just connected immediately with people.
In essence, you gave the world a hug!
Yeah I guess I did! I enjoy the design being so simple. I never went out to be some ultra positive artist, but I guess that’s what I am, so I’m grateful.
Thank you so much for speaking with us! Just one more question, so Del the monkey…
It’s so funny because with everything going on with Loft, Del has been getting a lot of press lately. People read about me and are fascinated by the monkey, so Del is getting a little too big for his breeches right now. He now spends his time sitting in the apartment with a silk top hat and monocle on and I feel like I’m working for him now!
Better take care of him on Valentine’s!
You know I will!