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Franky DeAngelis

“Art is Anarchy.”

Franky DeAngelis is an artist who lives and works in Silver City. He has a studio on the corner of Yankie & Texas where he fills large canvases with colors, shapes, lines, smudges and dribbles using unusual methods that rarely include paintbrushes. He describes his process in very visceral and cathartic terms. He often paints faces with a flat perspective, probably why multiple people have compared his work to Basquiat. He has no formal artistic training and his tag line is “Art is Anarchy.”

Franky DeAngelis and his self-portrait, “The Cowboy Romantic.

Where did you grow up, and what was your childhood like?

I grew up in New Rochelle, outside of New York City. As a child and up to 12th grade I didn’t have any identity. I was bullied in high school. I started painting my face like KISS, and got made fun of because everyone liked Pink Floyd. My parents were very abusive. I came from a “bad” Italian Catholic family. Immediately upon exiting high school, I went to go be a punk rocker. That’s when I formed my own identity. 

Can you sum up your career before becoming an artist?

I tried to please my dad and became a plumber for ten years. I hated it and moved to Vermont. I have a decorative bath and hardware store called Close to Home. I have a line called Skullknobbery, designer faucets with skull handles, cabinet knobs, etc. It’s run like a social mission. I pay well, give abundant vacation. Everyone gets 4-5 weeks paid vacation. To me business is a social mission, it’s part of the fabric of society. I don’t call people employees, I think that’s demeaning. I prefer to call people crew members. I’m selling [the business] to my manager because she wants it, and I don’t want to go back to Vermont. And she’s awesome. She’s given me freedom to come out to New Mexico and paint.

How did you end up in Silver City?

I was married for 15 years and got divorced 6 years ago. I pointed to Taos on a map and decided to drive there. I fell in love with New Mexico, and had been driving here every fall for six years. Last November, I visited City of Rocks and came to Silver City. I saw an anti-abortion protest in Walmart and almost left. Then I met Jean-Robert [Befort] at A-Space [Studio and Gallery], he was painting the sidewalk. Then I fell in love with another painter, my now-partner Hilary Klein. I drove back from Vermont 2,000 miles for Valentines Day. 

Tell me about your punk rock journey. 

Me and this guy George were into KISS. All of a sudden, we saw the first Ramones album cover and were like ‘wow, that’s cool.’ Started going “downtown,” to NYC, kind of fell in with a band called the Stimulators, a band with this 14-year-old drummer. I was kind of like a groupie, I followed them all around the city. I started a fanzine called Chaos, and interviewed Minor Threat. That’s when you could see the Misfits hanging out at clubs and stuff. 

Now all my autographs have this guy with a hat, his name is Sekausky. He was a character in the fanzine, he would say political and anarchist stuff.

Who are your punk influences?

The Stimulators, of course. I got into LA hardcore, like Black Flag, Circle Jerks, the Dead Kennedys. I love the Distillers, one of my chickens is named after the singer. I just loved the rawness. 

How does punk influence your visual style?

When punk rock happened, it became so anyone could play music. Just like I believe about art. Punk is also what I paint to. I’m still addicted to 70’s, 80’s, and some 90’s punk rock.

What’s on your painting playlist right now?

A Spotify list based on “Beat Your Heart Out” by the Distillers. 

Can you look at paintings in this room and match them to music you were listening to?

 “I Love You, the Girl from Mars” is based on the song “Girl from Mars” by Ash, a Brit pop band. 

I have a painting called Richie Dagger based on a song by The Germs, one of my favorite punk bands. I’ll probably never sell it, it’s a giant 60-inch. I used too much spray-paint in a closed room, worked until four am and had to go to the emergency room. That’s how I get when I paint, it’s almost like a dream state sometimes.

What is punk rock?

What punk rock really was was raw, do-it-yourself, do-what-you-wanna-do musical energy. And then it also became political energy. It became all-encompassing. At that point it was breaking societal norms. 

Is punk rock dead?

I don’t think it is, I think it still lives on. It’s been commercialized though. The term has been coined, it’s not fresh anymore. But I think the energy still lives on.

What has been the lasting influence of punk rock on the larger culture?

If you look at what happened with grunge in the 90s, I don’t think a lot of musical and style stuff would ever have happened if it weren’t for punk. They stripped down music to nothing but speed. I think that needed to happen. Nothing against hair bands, I was into Motley Crue and everything. But they made music more polished and corporate. I think kids now are really influenced by 80s culture.

What is anarchy?

Anarchy is freedom without boundaries. It’s personal freedom. When I was a real punk rocker, I believed in no government. Now I don’t believe that is possible, I believe in a more democratic socialist government. In art, I believe in doing whatever you want. Maybe it’s not the right way to use anarchy, but it brings the punk rock back in. The only rule is just be nice.

Have you been involved with anarchism as a political movement? 

I was in the Communist Party in New York City for a while. I was a member and leader in PETA back in New York, but I was mostly involved in music. I did start an Earth First chapter in Vermont. Earth First was a radical environmental group derived from the book by Edward Abbey called The Monkey Wrench Gang. The focus was on more direct action. I used to go around at 4am and spray paint over condo development billboards that were infringing on open space. 

Do you read, and if so what?

My favorite book is The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. It’s about unconditional happiness. Other than that, I just paint instead of reading.

We are interrupted by lightning. Not a visible crack, but an audible ping from his lightning-notification app. 

“Let’s see what’s going on,” he says. A lightning storm is 20 miles to the east.

In addition to painting, DeAngelis does lightning photography. Some of his prints are sitting in the studio, of bright jagged lines in the sky that he traveled many miles and snapped the shutter at just the right time to capture. He uses the app Lightning Pro and also follows storms in the Facebook group Grant County Weather Watchers.

“If you start following it you’ll lose your mind,” he said. “[My partner] Hillary wants to kill me. We have to go to therapy about my lightning addiction. I’ve been obsessed with lightning and thunder since I was a child. I didn’t know I would move here and start storm chasing. I’m staying here for good, I think.”

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Southwest Word Fiesta™ or its steering committee.

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Jo Lutz

Jo Lutz is a journalist and writer based in Silver City, New Mexico. She has been published in the Silver City Daily Press, Silver City Independent, Youth Today, Middletown Press, Old Saybrook Pictorial Gazette, and others. She holds a Bachelors Degree from Oberlin College in English and Politics. She also does freelance work in digital communications, photography, video and audio.
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