It's impossible to describe Phil America's work, and that fact is very important to him. Our host Jacob Patterson and Phil are from the same working man's town in NorCal, and they relate on many topics. Because of that, this podcast gets deeper than any we've done so far. Discussing what it means to be an American and an artist at the same time is what we are all doing nowadays, but it's something over which Phil has been obsessing for years. And that obsession expresses itself in many ways, oftentimes illegally.
0:00 - Intro
6:02 - What do you do?
6:19 - Not being exclusively stuck in a box
6:50 - Are you still a graffiti artist? When did you start?
7:32 - What were the first trashiest tags you were putting together? Did you use pens or spray cans?
9:02 - Was this the first art you did period?
9:14 - Art VS. Vandalism
12:02 - Phil explains what his favorite type of art is
14:02 - Social media echo chamber
14:42 - Do you consider yourself on the other side of people who are putting up gang graffiti?
16:02 - Calling social media activism when it really doesn’t do much
16:42 - At what point after 13-14 years old did you start writing things on the walls that you wanted people to see (with a social agenda)?
18:32 - You started sharing photography and publishing books; when did that start and what was the thought process behind it?
19:42 - Learn more about who Jean- Michel Basquiat is at
21:02 - Street art and the media are two different worlds. Do you think there are more areas now where these two worlds combine?
22:22 - “Graffiti is the only art form that was created by the youth.”
23:16 - What came next for you after tagging?
23:42 - Phil gets into detail of who graffiti train painters are and what they do
25:47 - When did you find your interest in graffiti train painters?
26:19 - Were you in a crew In Sacramento?
26:32 - When did you take the step of being an artist instead of just painting trains?
28:22 - https://streetartnews.net/tag/montana-gallery
28:52 - How Phil realized he was more than just a Graffiti artist and a photographer
29:24 - Why did you choose to go to Europe?
29:32 - Phil’s published books
29:55 - Phil goes into detail about realizing he does not want to restrict himself to only photography
31:18 - Is your graffiti work documented somewhere?
33:07 - You say that these graffiti artists don’t care about anything other than getting their respect at the same time you personally don't care if you suck or if you are good— you care a lot about the culture and getting in there to document them. When did this shift change from you painting to caring more about the culture?
35:07 - Where did you go to prison and for what?
36:32 - People viewing you through a lens of being straight white male
37:44 - An Interpol notice is an international alert circulated by Interpol to communicate information about crimes, criminals and threats from police in a member state (or an authorized international entity) to their counterparts around the world.
39:32 - Principle and conviction
39:52 - Did you make work in prison, if so what kind?
40:42 - Project in Thailand white ambition
41:42 - The caste system in India is a system of social stratification which has pre-modern origins, was transformed by the British Raj, and is today the basis of reservation in India. It consists of two different concepts, varna and jāti, which may be regarded as different levels of analysis of this system.
44:22 - Project in Thailand
45:12 - What was the first thing you did when you were in Bangkok since you didn’t take your camera?
46:29 - Phil touches on how he got in touch with the mafia in Thailand
48:00 - In Thailand the Thai people look down upon the slum people. Phil managed to find away that connects the both of these worlds. He placed both sides together in hopes of sparking conversations between the two in which he succeeded. His only hope is that this will lead somewhere in the future.
49:22 - Do you think there was some sort of difficulty while trying to express this project truthfully since you are a white american?
51:00 - Phil questions why it was okay for him to go to a higher part of the town but not the slum part of town
52:22 - “The language of art”
54:22 - How shortly after this project did you get arrested over there?
55:02 - What was it like being a white dude and coming out on the newspaper while in jail?
55:53 - How long were you in jail for?
56:53 - Phil explains how going to jail influenced him
59:12 - “If my mom can’t understand it get the fuck out of my face!”
01:01:52 - Phil is able to have conversations with people that he sees are voiceless, in a certain realm. He does not make his art work to them, he makes it for them.
1:03:47 - What was the moment you were like okay i’m going to prison?
1:04:00 - Phil taught at a school in Thailand, and by doing this him and his team helped thousands of people out of poverty.
1:05:42 - Did you get to call anyone from back home to let them know you were getting locked up?
1:09:32 - At what point did you decided to start calling yourself Phil America, how does it make you feel when you are called that?
1:11:42 - Taking American for granted
1:15:12 - Separating and using different names for different creative projects.
1:16:36 - Listen to Shelley’s podcast episode #5 and find more of her at
1:17:07 - Creating a story for the name you chose
1:19:17 - How have you moved up from each project you’ve done- from graffiti to photography etc
1:20:32 - Using the best language people will understand to get messages across
1:22:07 - What was the first instillation you did, was it in Europe?
1:22:42 - “Pictures are not worth a thousand words.”
1:24:02 - Phil’s thoughts on only creating art that is powerful
1:24:32 - Do you have ideas that are aesthetic?
1:28:01 - http://www.artsdistrictneworleans.com
1:29:07 - Where do you draw the line when people are emailing you trying to take advantage of your connections etc?
1:31:42 - Phil gets into depth about how the people he wants to help are the ones who aren’t asking for help.
1:33:42 - Jacob and Phil’s thoughts on not putting your name on every project you do, or the help you give.
1:35:12 - Shelley Holcomb
1:35:52 - Building relationships with sponsors
1:38:52 - Jacob speaks about how instillation art is important. In today’s society people are drawn to art that they can snap a photo of to post on Instagram while tagging their friends which is good exposure for the artist.
1:40:22 - The language of art
1:41:30 - Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras
1:43:42 - Jacob and Phil’s thoughts on Millennial's having a complicated relationship with work and the American Dream.
1:44:50 - “Who does the most work, the best work the hardest work and who's the most clever.”
1:46:36 - Good is a subjective term hard work is not- to Phil working the hardest does not mean it is the best work but at the end of the day it is something he respects.
1:48:56 - Understanding a process Vs time
1:49:27 - See more of Phil’s art instillation of sneakers made into a flag
1:52:02 - What it means to be an artist and an american at the same time
1:53:22 - Super bowl rant/Tom Brady/Lady Gaga.
1:56:27 - See the trailer for the dance show by Daniella Agami
1:58:01 - Jacob gets into detail on a collaborative idea that both him and Phil hope to create. This project will involve sections of the border between Mexico and America; making references to politics. This piece can help for a mediative inspection of those ideas
2:07:22 - Phil speaks about Donald Trumps idea of creating a wall and how it is not something new that does not exist. This wall specific wall already exists and Phil believes people are critical of the idea of walls, not this wall. People are against the idea of keeping people out of somewhere when they are just looking for a better life.
2:08:42 - The American Dream, how it’s fallen, the mistaken angle in the belief that we can “Make America Great Again” – case in point, Americana:
“From the mid through late 20th Century, Americana was largely associated with nostalgia for an idealized life in small towns and small cities in America around the turn of the century, from roughly 1880 to the First World War, popularly considered "The Good Old Days". It was believed that much of the structure of 20th Century American life and culture had been cemented in that time and place”
The zeitgeist of the idealized period is captured in the Disneyland-style theme parks' Main Street, U.S.A. section (which was inspired by both Walt Disney's hometown of Marceline, Missouri and Harper Goff's childhood home of Fort Collins, Colorado), as well as the musical and movie The Music Man and Thornton Wilder's stage play Our Town. Especially revered in Americana nostalgia are small town institutions like the barber shop, the drug store/soda fountain and ice cream parlor,
2:10:42 - Your name has defined you and your work; with this crumbling American dream how do you reconcile this
2:13:14 - Phil explains what his idea of the American Dream means, “It’s a feelings it’s an emotion its something you can’t bottle up. America is a place where you are allowed to dream.”
2:16:52 - Americans taking what they have for granted
2:21:54 - If the way you are trying to communicate your message makes it so there is no receiver, from that point longer it is no longer a message because it wont get to the receiver.
2:22:59 - Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” and the idea of being worthless to even your family if you are unable to do good work – a reflection of American ideals from a German author
2:23:42 - Phil’s comments on street art - how putting a label/placing it in a box immediately takes away from what the person is saying from viewing it through a specific lens.
2:27:22 - What are you working on next?
Find more about Phil America at: