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- Jupiter, Florida, United States
Life Lessons & Spray Paint
JUPITER, FL – March 3, 2017 –Local artist Mark Rupprecht uses his art to inspire communication and communities.
Tucked away behind the Gallery Square North in Tequesta, Florida is arguably one of the most engaging displays of public art and civic pride in South Florida. Facing a shady lane, the walls of the fronting businesses are decorated with murals executed by talented local artists, one of which, a pair of dolphins and a sea turtle, happens to have been featured in a spread in our premiere issue on pages 20-21. The artist, Mark Rupprecht, teaches classes at the Lighthouse ArtCenter School of Art across the street from the wall murals. He is also known as “Bulk Styles” and has legions of fans on both coasts and on social media where he shares his public – and fine –art. We recently spent a day “tagging around” with the former self-professed tagger, viewing his wide variety of public art around Palm Beach County, and learning how art brings communities together.
Although Rupprecht was born in New Jersey, his family relocated to South Florida when he was 14 – a truly formative age. After owning an art gallery in New Jersey for 30 years, his mother opened another in Florida and encouraged his love of drawing. “I also had a teacher who inspired and encouraged me to draw. Even though I never had any formal lessons, she recognized my talent and actually created a special class for me where I could sit and draw – and get school credit.” Rupprecht credits that encouragement of his love with keeping him out of trouble, although he does admit that his public art did start out as “traditional graffiti,” “But I quickly thought, hey, why don’t I do something legitimate and actually make a career out of this?” So, instead of tagging neighborhoods, Rupprecht decided to beautify them.
DRAWING WITH SPRAY PAINT AND DRAWING ATTENTION
Rupprecht was given the opportunity to teach a class for the Lighthouse ArtCenter in Tequesta using spray paint as a medium. “Most people hear spray paint and they think, ‘graffiti,’ but there is so much more that can be do with it,” he says. “My class teaches that it can be used as a viable tool to create art.”
In an effort to “advertise” the class, Rupprecht painted a mural of a Rubber Duckie on a wall on the side of the school. It has now become a landmark in Tequesta. “From the start,” Rupprecht says, “People were interested in what I was doing. At first they thought I was painting the wall because it has a primarily white background, but as soon as the bubbles and the duck started to take shape, it became a conversation piece. People would stop and talk. Cars would pull up. Nobody could believe that I was creating that work with cans of spray paint.”
Not only did the Rubber Duckie serve his purpose in drawing attention to his class, but it also drew attention to the ArtCenter itself.
Suddenly, Tequesta and Jupiter realized that there was this hidden gem in their midst and traffic to the ArtCenter and to the Gallery increased.
Soon, Rupprecht turned his attention to another hidden gem – the blank walls lining the street behind Gallery Square North, just across the street from the ArtCenter and his Rubber Duckie.
“I asked the building owners if I could paint a mural on their walls,” he says. “Every blank wall I see just calls to me and these walls were staring at me every time I turned away from the Rubber Duckie.”
The building owners, who had watched Rupprecht create his artful duck across the street, quickly agreed to his plans to beautify their walls. Thus, Tequesta’s famed under-sea-themed mural was born.
“Painting this mural was a great experience,” Rupprecht says. “The whole community seems to have passed by at one point or another. From little kids on their bikes to older ladies out walking their dogs who couldn’t believe that it was spray paint. Everyone stopped to talk – about the art, about what I was doing, and how I was doing it. Nobody could believe that the dolphins, manatees, snook, and turtles were all created with cans of spray paint.”
The following year, other mural artists joined Rupprecht, each taking a section of wall and adding their own mural to line the street with colorful art.
“We’re hoping to be able to paint over them and paint new murals,” Rupprecht explains. “Although the existing ones are beautiful, art should be ever-changing and fresh. We want these to continually evolve in order to have an on-going dialog with the community.”
Old or new, Rupprecht’s murals form the heart of the Tequesta art district and have led to other walls outside the small community.
FLORIDA LANDMARK REOPENS WITH A PAINTED SPLASH
The owner of The Brewhouse Gallery in Lake Park, Florida, AJ Brockman, decided to revitalize the vintage movie theater that was attached to the pub, turning the space into a performing arts venue, renamed the Kelsey Theater. Since wonderful pieces of local art, including Brockman’s own digital pieces, decorate the Brewhouse’s walls; it was a logical choice for the building’s owner to turn his artistic eye to the building itself. The back of the building begged for a mural – thus the “Mural Project,” and Rupprecht’s involvement in it, began. As it happens, the space had a special resonance for Rupprecht.
“I grew up a few blocks from here. Lake Park is where I went to school. This community is special to me,” he says. “I don’t want it to surrender to the blight.”
The project started on the weekend, and the neighborhood was very interested in what he was doing. “There was this one young girl that would hang around me all the time,” he says. “She would watch me paint, but she wouldn’t say anything or ask any questions. She was just really shy. So I asked her if she wanted to help. She said she did. I gave her the can and told her where to spray. After she filled in a section, I said, ‘Now, you can tell everyone that you helped paint this mural.’ Her smile was huge.”
“There was a woman who would bring a group of children out to watch us paint,” he continues. “One day, a man was walking down the street talking on the phone, just from his demeanor you could tell he was having a bad day. From his outfit, I could tell he was a chef. I know how hard it can be for those guys. He stopped when he got to the mural and told the person on the other end of the line that he had to go. Then, he just stood and stared at my work. I must have talked with him for a good five minutes. It was awesome. He walked away smiling and I went back to work smiling. For that small amount of time, I made him forget how crappy his day was and he reminded me how great my life is.”
INSPIRATION IN BULK
One of five murals to decorate the back of the Theater and Brewhouse, Rupprecht’s contribution is a giant King Kong holding a screaming Fay Wray, while a chimp in a bi-wing airplane dive-bombs them from above. “I wanted to paint the classic King Kong, because the Theater used to show the classic films,” Rupprecht says. “I added the chimp because everyone needs to smile.” The enormous artwork took two weeks to paint and 30 to 40 cans of spray paint. And in spite of the levity, and the fact that this was executed with spray paint, the individual pieces of the giant ape’s fur are visible. This may be “graffiti art,” but it is clear that there are elements of “fine” art at play.
“I call my style ‘Hyper-Realism,’ especially my fine art,” Rupprecht explains. He then proceeds to show a series of portraits of dogs rendered in oil that look so realistic that they seem to breathe. “It’s the eyes,” he says. “I will spend hours making sure that I have their eyes just right. It really is true, they are the windows to the soul.”
From the Tequesta murals, to murals around West Palm Beach, to fine art pieces in homes all around the world, whether he is signing with his real name, or with “Bulk Styles,” each piece is filled with the creative spirit. “I sign myself as ‘Bulk Styles’ because I do a lot of different stuff in a lot of different styles from spray paint to oil, but it all comes from the same creative place, it all has the same passion.”
“These days, people don’t look for inspiration in the world. We’re all too busy looking at our cell phones. But look at where we live! I can’t help but be inspired by everything – and I see so many blank canvases for my murals…so many opportunities to bring art to communities, and to inspire them. Art inspires people, but more than that, it brings us together.”•
Photos courtesy of Bulk Styles
Name: Mark Rupprecht
Email: Email Us
Phone No: 561-768-6251