You’ve probably seen Joe Suta’s artwork outdoors–under the name Choke, he’s spray painted or wheat pasted every part of Chicago I’ve ever been to. But recently he’s taken it inside, for gallery shows, mural commissions, and a side hustle in custom-painted Nikes.
Miles Raymer: You’ve been painting Dunks.
Joe Suta: I’ve been painting shoes for [the Wicker Park sneaker boutique] Saint Alfred. I still haven’t gotten them over there, but they’re supplying me shoes to customize. I did a lot of work for Felix da Housecat. Technology’s been ruining my life as far as people getting ahold of me.
MR: What are your designs like when you don’t have someone telling you what to paint?
JS: I’m basically taking the stuff I’ve been doing on the street, like stencils and wheat paste, and making them real small. Today I walked into Quimby’s and there were more books on street art than there were on traditional types. In Chicago graffiti is like a lesser form of gangbanging. I want to make it more huggable.
MR: What do you think about graffiti moving off the streets and into the marketplace?
JS: I’m not gonna lie. I’ve been able to work for myself for a while without punching a clock. But I’ll never do a gallery, I’ll never do a show, without putting my time in on the street. I was just in Baltimore last week and I couldn’t even make it to the gallery show that I was in, but I still went out and painted the city.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Saverio Truglia.