Halsi is a native Orlando artist with his own distinctive iconography, most well-known for his enigmatic figure “Everyone”, which appears throughout downtown Orlando and other nebulous cities. To the normal pedestrian walking by a lynx bus stop / brick wall / street pole and catching sight of the figure on a sticker, Everyone is an impenetrable pictorial-concept. Everyone resembles so many things; yet, it isn’t a replication of anything besides itself. Any immediate comparison falls short: it isn’t a penguin, it isn’t the robot from Big Hero 6, and it isn’t Jesus. Everyone seems, initially at least, to be devoid of any meaning, or to contain a meaning that is purposively concealing itself.
The ubiquity and insistence of Everyone begs for a clear, easily-digestible answer—there is an urge to overcome the dissonance it produces just by existing. We asked Halsi what exactly that answer is—and while it still doesn’t fully dispel the enigma behind the figure, it does let us in on the artist’s own ideas behind Everyone.
Q: Your recurring figure— Everyone—seems to be an abstracted or distilled form of humanity, an empty receptacle of Being. You’ve compared Everyone to getting to know a stranger in another interview: “There’s this silhouette. It’s the first thing you see before you see their face—or whether it’s a girl or a boy. You’re like, ‘Oh, it’s a human.’ You go from there.” Has your thinking on the meaning of Everyone shifted at all? Or is this still how you think of the figure?
A: It’s basically the same. It’s the concept that there’s this external shell that never changes, it remains androgynous, it remains ambiguous. [Everyone] is basically like a control in a scientific experiment. It’s about everything else around it or inside of it; it’s the environment or any of the more important stuff about somebody rather than how they look or their gender or whatever. It basically removes everything from the equation—everything remains except for the judgement.
Q: Why is this Everyone figure so important to you?
A: It’s important to me because the concept is a big part of my life. I’m heavily tattooed on my face and the rest of my body and it’s been like that pretty much my whole adult life and even before that when I was 16 or 17. People place judgement on your appearance, and that’s coming from being a white kid from the suburbs with face tattoos. I can’t even begin to understand how a minority person would feel in the same situations [that I’ve been in]. I’ve had a lot of personal experiences, like getting denied or getting ignored. The list goes on, but nothing close to what minorities experience in America.
Q: Duplicity and repetition seem really important to your work—why is this?
A: Well, it really started when with my friends and my peers that I respected as well as other artists. When I was 17, when I first did the figure, they said “keep doing that”, and it gave me the OK, like the thumbs up. So, I was stuck with it. It's become developed and more and more and it's also become somewhat of a logo for my brand and for my art—as much as I don't like using that word logo—but it's just easily digestible. It’s associated with me because it's a very clean, simple icon.
Q: Who are some of your main artistic influences conceptually and aesthetically?
A: I'm really influenced, with the characters specifically, by Cleone Peterson. He does these simple like one- or two-color huge paintings of that always have violence or that violence involved, but it is really simple characters. I also really just like the idea of symmetry within my art. It just brings me comfort.
Q: How do you feel about some of the misconceptions about Everybody? It is a visually ambiguous figure (as you noted)—do you play into that ambiguity or think that it’s an important part of Everyone?
A: Yeah, I mean that’s a big part of art, it involves everyone’s opinion because not a lot of people know the meaning of the concept behind it. And even knowing the concept behind it doesn’t completely explain it. People like to have a full explanation because it gives them comfort. Like, “oh, it’s a penguin” or something, but if you create something with a concept not a lot of people are going to grasp that. To them, it could be something horrific or negative or even lewd. I’ve painted public murals in Jacksonville, New York, LA, and I’ll be painting for days and the one question I always get is: “what’s it gonna be?” And my answer is never satisfying. I think it’s cool that everyone has their own perception—that means that they’re invested in the art, just by thinking about it.
Q: There is a lot of indirect imagery that isn’t necessarily immediately accessible. Where do you find the line between intention-of-meaning and unintended meaning? Do you give everything a clear, stable meaning while you’re creating it, or do you assign things meaning afterwards?
A: Yeah, I can break that down. The basic character that I put down on the streets that you see around the cities are more so just about distributing the art and creating those questions because it’s just a plain figure. But as far as the art, like my paintings on bigger canvases, there’s always a concept. It starts with a title. For example, there’s a series I’m working on right now titled, “Everyone Else”, and the first painting in that series is titled “Lizard Boy” and it’s basically about my family and my childhood and all of my experiences. So, there’s a specific context for things like that, but I can’t put the same amount of energy towards every sticker. A lot of my paintings start with words and the relationships and feelings behind those words.
Q: What are you working on? What do you have coming up?
A: I’m really just focusing on my art. In the past I’ve gotten ahead of myself, doing clothing or other stuff that isn’t really the art—it's other mediums of distributing the art. It might be more lucrative but I realized that to have a brand people have to fall in love with the art before they fall in love with the product. So, I’m focusing on the art, like the “Everyone Else” series which is a personal series for myself—I'm not sure if I’ll be showing it anywhere but I definitely want to have it created and posted somewhere on the internet soon.