SCOM stood in a doorway in Oaxaca and told us some hairy stories of his life as a graffiti artist. He grew up in L.A. His mother came from a remote village in Oaxaca.
As a kid, he was George. Sometimes his Mom would bring him to visit family in Oaxaca. One day, his L.A. high school art teacher showed his notebooks to a California art college. “That’s so weird,” says SCOM, “cause she was always flunkin’ me, but I guess she saw potential.” He met the art school admission committee and they offered him a full scholarship. But, he had to come back for a formal interview.
Unfortunately, right before his big interview he got busted for painting graffiti. He called the art school from jail to reschedule the meeting. They must have had caller I.D. They gave the scholarship to someone else.
“So I just went down to Venice Beach and started painting. I did it for a couple years. It was probably just as well I never went to art school, ’cause I did way more painting. I developed my style, ya’ know? And people bought my stuff. My friends said, ‘Hey, how come you got money, when you don’t got no job?’ I said, hey, this is my job.”
Shots Fired in West Oakland!
Graffiti can be tough. “Once in West Oakland we got shot at. One night me and my partner were painting the back of a billboard on a warehouse. I like the backs better. They stay up longer. We had lookouts down below. So, this homeless guy sees us. He gets out of his little plastic tent, and he says he has asthma and the spray is bothering him. So we are thinking this over. But then I hear this scrape of metal on concrete and the homeless guy drags this big wrench out of his tent and swings it at my buddy, the lookout. Just misses his head. And we are like O.F !”
“I say, ‘should we go down and help him?’ and my partner says, ‘Nah, it’s too far down, just wait.’ The lookouts run off. But then the homeless guy starts bangin’ on a metal door. The door flies open. Out comes a big white guy looks like Elmer Fudd, with the stupid hat and the shotgun!”
“Just like Elmer Fudd, but he has beard. Comes out with his shotgun and first thing he says is, ‘Where’s the problem?’ Our buds are long gone, but the homeless dude says I think I see two more on the roof. So F! We move behind the posts. We don’t even breathe. We wait like an hour and we thought it was safe to come down. But, NO! Elmer Fudd was there waiting for us. I heard the shotgun blast and the buck shot was bouncing of the walls all around us. We just ran and didn’t look back. That was West Oakland. East Oakland is supposed to be the tough place, where are the murders are, but in East Oakland the people were nicer to us. They were clapping for us. So you never know.”
Can I Buy a Vowel?
Question: How did you get the name SCOM? “Well, I was writing a lot, I came up with this phrase, Society Creates Monsters, then I shortened it to SCM. Painted it everywhere. SCM. SCM. Then some dudes said, ‘You know, man, SCM is the tag of a gang you don’t want to mess with,’ so I added the O. SC-O-M. Now, I am SCOM.”
SCOM’s paintings on canvas can be seen at Taller Siqueiros and Projecto Chicatana on Porfirio Diaz in Oaxaca. His littlest paintings sell for 150 pesos, about $12. His biggest works can be seen in tunnels and on the backs of billboards all over California and Mexico.