DTOX Davies Hosts Graffiti Tours in Deep Ellum
The Mavs championship mural in Deep Ellum, dog portraits in the Bark Park, the mammoth geisha in Chino Chinatown, the patio wall at Bryan Street Tavern: His work surrounds you and you might not even notice. Jerod DTOX Davies is one of three brothers whose artistic endeavors are visible on street corners and in shops throughout Dallas. They're muralists, aka street artists, and they're changing the way you look at the city, one building at a time.
Davies and his brothers paint together as a small crew that goes by the name 3of1. He points out the numerical signature to me when I meet him in front of the Mavs mural in Deep Ellum.
"Want to know something?" he asks, a grin spreading across his face. "While we were doing this one, the trophy was right across the street. People would be driving by watching us work, then look across the street and see the trophy. Almost caused a few car wrecks."
Davies is immediately likable, which makes him the perfect guide through the graffiti of Deep Ellum. He shares anecdotes about each of the pieces he's created, offering asides about other crews, his favorite styles of street art and how artists mark territory. For years, he's been casually showing his friends around, but recently he turned it into an official tour.
"It's like an outdoor gallery tour," Davies says. "There's so much art in the streets here, and I give people the history and the story of as many pieces as I can in about an hour. Then, I invite people back to my studio and teach them how to make a stencil and then let them make a legal tag."
Jerod in front of his art.
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Davies is giving me a preview of the tour, pointing out the work of local artists like Infinity Crew, Ray Alvarez and Minus Won, a valued member of the street art community who passed away recently. We stop at Elm Street Bar where one of his final works is on the patio. Davies stops for a second to look at the stickers, or "slaps," that read "Minus Won" on the window. Slaps are a respectful way to mark territory, because you can take them off more easily than paint.
"These slaps here were done with permission from the owner, in memory of Minus," Davies says. "It was so sudden when he passed, it was a wake-up call for our community. Life is short."
Jerod and his brothers, Jashua and Isaac, grew up in an artistic family. They were taught to work with their hands by their mom, who creates soft sculptures (think mascot costumes), and their graphic artist dad taught them the technical side of art. As teenagers, they teamed up to paint the streets. Now, they're one of the most prolific crews in the city and they're close to finishing the largest graffiti mural in Dallas. For Davies, it's about supporting the city and beautifying the neighborhood, a philosophy he adopted from Deep Ellum's street king, Frank Campagna.
"Frank has this goal to paint every available space in Deep Ellum and make it the street art capital," Davies says. "I'm on board with that. It would boost tourism, which would be great for the neighborhood."
Apparently, a slap is a sign of respect for Observer property...
For Davies, it's as simple as approaching a landlord or a shop owner and offering to paint a wall or a garage door. Most of the time, he says, it's just about working with the owner to create the right visuals. Collaboration is key if an artist wants his work to have a long "ride," or lifetime.
"Dallas hasn't caught up to the approachability of the landlord. What young people don't know is that most of the time, you just gotta ask," Davies says. "They're not the misers that you think; they just want what they want."
This attitude has earned Davies business from the city of Dallas, the Dallas Farmers Market, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Mavericks, and for two years in a row the Davies brothers were commissioned by Modelo to design pint glasses. In fact, they recently returned from an inspiration trip around the country, paid for by Modelo. This gave him a chance to meet artists he looks up to, like RISK and Shepard Fairey, whose work can be seen throughout West Dallas thanks to a commission from the Dallas Contemporary.
"A lot of the younger artists get their shorts in a bunch when stuff like that happens," Davies says. "And I wasn't happy about it at first either because sure there are a lot of artists here who can do cool murals. But you need a headliner, you need someone at the forefront and then the rest of us will feel the ripple effect."
As we walk through Deep Ellum Bark Park and past the painted flower boxes on Commerce Street, Davies says we're at the end of the tour. We didn't even see a fraction of the street art in Deep Ellum, much less the city at large. It seems Davies is onto something with his new venture, because I'm already itching to explore more Dallas street art.
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