The all-denim "Canadian tuxedo" look normally doesn't turn too many heads, but in artist Traeron "Trae Isaac" Vawters's case, it does. Covered in a rainbow of paint splotches, Vawters's getup is mostly utilitarian — he just uses it as a smock. But it also doubles as a conversation-starter when he wears it outside of his studio, too. "It's actually a nice business card because people are like, 'Oh! you're an artist, huh?'" he says.
"It's a real huge thing with the ladies," he adds. "I guess they like the colors and everything like that."
The 24-year old artist has been painting for nine years, making a living doing it for the past four. "It's all become a lifestyle," he says. "It spans further than what you just put on a wall." Aside from painting canvases, he also paints on clothes that he sells. He recently did a collaboration with an iPhone repair shop, painting on clear cases, and even painted someone's piano once. "I feel like everything can use some type of creative touch," he says. "The canvas really is unlimited."
Vawters works mainly in acrylics, but right now is using a mixture of acrylic and oil for his latest collection. He got his start painting on T-shirts back in 2006, and moved to canvas from there. Vawters says that though he is "self-inspired," he isn't completely self-taught. "Everything I picked up was just from fellow artists around me — things I just happened to see on Tumblr or Instagram that I like, or public art that I just happen to like," he says.
Speaking of ladies, they're the subject of Vawters's latest collection, which will be on display at the end of December. The brightly colored paintings have a pop art feel, and feature stylized renditions of flowers, eyes, and lips. The exhibit will also feature a fashion show, with women modeling Vawters's latest designs.
The event will be held at a space called the Untitled Bottega, a former motorcycle club turned art gallery, of which Vawters is a founding member. Aside from housing artist studios such as Vawters's, the space has hosted a variety of events since it opened last year, including poetry readings, film screenings, hip-hop shows, and ballet.
Located on a desolate street near Detroit's North End neighborhood not far from the College for Creative Studies' A. Alfred Taubman Center campus, the Untitled Bottega could be poised to become a new art hub. Vawters says they were able to move to this larger location thanks to city and investor support, and the crew at the Untitled Bottega has recently received a Knight grant. Vawters says they plan on acquiring three more buildings across the street, with the goal of transforming them into a film theater and a dance studio.
For Vawters, it's the perfect space to work and create. "I love Detroit," he says. "I call it a training ground to everybody who isn't from here, because of the psychological resilience that's required to live here and to succeed here. You have to work smart and work hard. You can't really do either or."
Traeron Vawters's All Is Divine opens at 7 p.m. on Dec. 21, 2014 at the Untitled Bottega, 314 E. Baltimore, Detroit; 313-355-0176; untitledbottega.com. Free for women, $10 donation for gentlemen.
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