Painting elephants on NYC walls

In this week's Public Eye, street artist Vera Times from collective A Dying Breed talks Banksy, 5 Pointz and pachyderms

Vera Times, 27

Vera Times, 27, street artist: "As long as it's visible and free for the public to enjoy, that's street art."

Vera Times, 27, street artist: "As long as it's visible and free for the public to enjoy, that's street art." Photograph: An Rong Xu

Tell us about this painting. This is my wall across from 5 Pointz. My roots are in graffiti, but I got bored of just writing my name over and over again—so now I’m focused on creating quality pieces like this. I’m part of a five-person street-art collective called A Dying Breed (, and we call this wall ADB Alley because we paint there a lot. We push each other so much—if one person does something really dope, it’s like, Aww shit, I need to step my game up.

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Describe your game. Well, I grew up in a poor, Asian-American, working-class family—my parents are refugees—so I’ve always been down for underground subversive cultures. But as much as I’m into the politics of street art—the idea that those marginalized by society can get visibility—my art itself is actually more visual than political: I love bright colors! And I’m really into painting elephants.

Awesome. Why? They live in matriarchal societies, which I respect because being a girl in a very male-dominated culture is hard. I think a lot of people see a girl with spray paint and automatically think she’s gonna suck. So I’ve always been a little insecure and shy about my work. That’s why it’s nice being part of ADB. I feel like I have a space in the street-art scene.

Speaking of the scene, what are your thoughts on Banksy’s recent residency? I couldn’t get behind it at first. My thinking was, If his name wasn’t on there, people wouldn’t be flipping out about, like, a stencil and a dog. But then he did the Central Park sale, and I thought, Yeah, I respect that. For someone who’s already rich and successful, it’s cool that he’s still making an effort to challenge the state of street art today.

Which is what? Have Banksy and 5 Pointz changed things? Some people think that when it’s authorized or commissioned, it’s not street art anymore—it’s just a mural. But I don’t think there has to be an element of illegality. As long as it’s visible and free for the public to enjoy, that’s street art.

So do you ever go out at night illegally? Yes, but I’ve never been arrested, fortunately. I have plans to go out soon. Just keep your eyes peeled around the city! That’s all I’ll say.

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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)

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