Full Frame Close Up: The Oakland Vandal (or is it Thief?)

Full Frame

If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “if you want to achieve greatness, stop asking for permission,” then you’ve heard of street artist Eddie Colla. Eddie coined the phrase about ten years ago and it’s become highly successful for him; to the point where it was briefly, and illegally, sold on printed canvases through Walmart’s website.

Since then, Eddie’s artwork has been seen in public spaces in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Miami, and around the world. Eddie’s work first received national recognition when his street art featured images of Barack Obama during the 2008 U.S. Presidential election. His designs have been transformed many times over, from stickers and posters, albums and magazine covers, to t-shirts and hoodies.

Eddie is ambivalent about the labels attached to his work.

“Some people view what I do as vandalism. I assume that their objection is that I alter the landscape without permission,” he says. “Advertising perpetually alters our environment without the permission of its inhabitants. The only difference is that advertisers pay for the privilege to do so and I don’t. So if you’re going to call me anything, it is more accurate to call me a thief.”

Full Frame caught up with Eddie at his studio in Oakland. He asked us to keep his identity hidden because he would rather have people look at his work than look at him, but not seeing his face only makes his insightful thoughts on art, politics, and the world even more poignant. Besides, we didn’t want to play any part in getting this talented thief (or vandal) caught!