Commercial Collaborations Take Art to New Audiences

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Infinite Inspiration

Photo by Birdman Photos
Photo by Birdman Photos

For years, Torrey Cook noticed a big, white wall on the back of a building inhabited by Tilly’s in Irvine as she drove the Interstate 405 freeway, near the state Route 133 interchange. Finally, the owner and founder of Artists Republic on South Coast Highway decided that something needed to be done with such a portentous potential canvas.

Torrey suggested that one of her artists, San Francisco-based painter Zio Ziegler, create one of his large-scale, abstract murals on the wall. Through collaboration with the Irvine-based clothing company as well as Cypress-based apparel and shoe titan Vans, the work came to fruition: Without a blueprint or sketch, Zio and a crew of three helpers painted the 15,000-square-foot mural in less than three days in early July. Using hydraulic lifts, latex paint and spray paint, the artists generated a deep blue background, adding large human figures in running stances as well as Egyptian-looking figures striking poses in the center.

“I call it neo-mythological, open-source hieroglyphics,” says Zio, a 27-year-old illustration graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design. “It’s allegorical. This is something that hopefully introduces a piece of the infinite in front of you.”

Zio has completed one shoe collaboration with Vans and understands the dichotomies of working with commercial companies. He believes, however, the artistic exposure outweighs the consumerism: “They’ve left a mural out there,” Zio says. “They leave the art behind that’s not overtly related to the product. Hopefully, it speaks to the masses. These big companies have huge channels of distribution and give an artist the opportunity to push a message that needs no translation.”    

Torrey says the reaction to the mural—which was originally approved to be on display for 90 days, but received an extension to June 2016—is overwhelmingly positive. “Murals allow artists to get outside the gallery box world,” she explains. “… For me, the location of the mural is so important, because it’s so highly visible to people who live in Orange County and commute to where they’re going every day. It’s kind of beacon to show that there is great art here in Orange County.”


Safety in Style

Photo by Greg Bell/courtesy of Troy Lee Designs
Photo by Greg Bell/Courtesy of Troy Lee Designs

Before owning his multimillion dollar company, Troy Lee Designs, Laguna Beach resident Troy Lee started his career humbly: painting “no smoking” signs and Christmas scenes in store windows, and crafting designs on bike helmets for friends. He grew up racing dirt bikes and motorcycles, so decorating gear and equipment came naturally.

Today, Troy Lee Designs not only transforms helmets into painted works of art with bold, yet intricate designs, but also manufactures its own line and engineers an array of other protective gear. Headquartered in Corona—in addition to a retail boutique and design center on Glenneyre Street in Laguna—Troy’s enterprise has grown to include commercial partners such as Red Bull, Adidas and Oakley, as well as professional racers like Juan Pablo Montoya, Jeremy McGrath, Ricky Johnson and Danica Patrick.

Earlier this year, the 54-year-old artist designed the covers of the programs for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the 99th Indianapolis 500; the latter is one of the most prestigious racing events in motorsports.

“They called us because we do so many of the top drivers’ helmets and winners of past races,” Troy says. “I basically took their logo, flag; the wing has been really stretched. I gold-leafed it and embossed it on the cover.”

But Troy doesn’t just take any client. “I take on projects that I feel,” he says. “If I can’t go to dinner with you, I don’t want to work for you. Most of my clients are friends. I go to a lot of races. If it doesn’t feel right, and I don’t enjoy it, and I don’t hit it off with a client, I don’t need to do it. I’m fortunate in that way.”

These days, the artist has even more motivation to design: In May 2014, he was injured in a motorcycle accident and found himself recovering in a wheelchair. “My mom wants me to quit the business,” Troy says. “She’d be happy if I was just a painter.” His new passion is making products with safety and protection as the top priority. “I’ve lost too many friends to accidents,” he says. “I don’t want to see it happen again.”

—Written by Richard Chang

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