When street artist Amuse126 was a kid growing up in Chicago, he was told not to play by the railroad tracks or in abandoned factories. “It’s not safe,” older family members would tell him. Many of us were told that by adults as kids. But as he got older, Amuse126’s perspective on parental warnings shifted.
“Things at home became uncomfortable for me, due [to] family situations,” he says. “I realized, ‘Well, if it’s not as safe at home, what’s to say it’s unsafe by these factories and such?'”
He started exploring abandoned city spaces. And what he found wasn’t abandoned at all. It was a whole other world, alive and brimming with color. The seemingly decrepit buildings were covered in graffiti. And he gravitated towards the artform — often visiting the same pieces again and again, trying to get under the skin of what made them speak to his visual aesthetic so clearly.
Before long, Amuse126 had joined the scene and started doing art, illegally. And the thrilling, rebellious nature of it kept him coming back. It was kind of like a game of Truth or Dare, just…. with constant dares.
“You begin to look and scan the surface of everything differently,” he says. “It’s like skateboarding. You’re looking for a set of stairs to jump over or a rail to grind or something to really wow. Things that haven’t been done. Like, no one’s ever jumped over a distance this large. It’s the same thing, ‘Wow this is so bold, this is so right on the street, how could we not try to have our name on it?'”
He loved the challenge — competing with himself to do things that were bigger, better, more exciting. And being the best, he discovered, meant finding the best version of you, not copying or competing with other artists or styles.
“It’s very easy to think, ‘How can I compete or keep up with someone else?'” he says, “It’s harder to challenge yourself and stay true to yourself. You’re much better off at war with yourself than everybody outside.”