Who the hell is TVHeadATX? Local wheat pasta provocateur reveals…a thing or two – Arts

TVHead’s bold work can be found all over the city, its wheat-pasted posters and ubiquitous stickers draw the public’s attention to walls and utility poles and traffic signal boxes in our rapidly metastatic urban core.

The central image of the art: a corporate citizen with a large old-fashioned cathode-ray tube from a television set where his head should be – and the screen of that television always displayed some arch command.

You’ve seen those images. Hell, you may have seen the man himself live, in the flesh with a TV cover, courting a street art gallery opening or some house party.

We recently interviewed TVHead for a facet of our current article on Austin’s Show Me Pizza, as the artist’s graphics heralded the joint’s Pizza Box Art project. But we had more questions past that subject; and TVHead had more to say; and so, ah – look, you’re already reading this damn thing, right?

Let’s get into it.

Austin Chronicle: Are you originally from Austin? One of those rare natives?

TVHeadATX: I was born and raised in Texas, but I was in the Dallas area. And I was an artist when I moved to Austin in 1998 – I sold my art and made a living from it at the time – and so it just evolved. And in 2017 I brought the TVHead art to the streets.

AC: Were you already making those images?

HST: I worked in video production, so I had already made the TVHead costume before I even made the art for it. In fact – look, this is where lines blur, trying to keep myself anonymous – I won awards from the city for my video production work.

[Note: Several paragraphs of transcript were REDACTED here, to protect the artist’s identity.]

Who the hell is TVHeadATX? Local wheat pasta provocateur reveals...a thing or two - Arts

Photo by @justagirlfromtexas_

AC: But you didn’t have exhibitions in legitimate galleries in the city?

HST: Well, I had made some amazing pieces and I wanted to get them in galleries. So I went to three different galleries in Austin, and none of them even wanted to look at them – they wouldn’t even respond. Well okay, a of them was like, “It’s not what we would put in our gallery.” And I was like, “twist the gallery settings, I’m not trying to sell something for ten thousand dollars, I just want people to see my art.” And it came to me that I would put my art all over the streets of Austin.

AC: Just – random art, when the mood hits you?

HST: From 2017 to now, every three or four months, I come up with a new campaign where I create three to five new designs. And I paint them by hand, or I print them and paint them with spray paint, and then I go out and put them all over the street, go out in the middle of the night and set things up. And I’m known in Austin for doing big things on billboards: I climb buildings and put things on billboards, big 8-foot or 12-foot pieces that I hand-painted. So if you ever want to know what’s going on with TVHead, take a look on the street. It’s the latest stuff I’ve made, and the galleries will never see it.

AC: But you to be now in a few galleries?

HST: First, in 2020, I was here on the wall at Bender’s.

[Note: That’s Bender Bar & Grill at 321 W. Ben White, where the man behind the avatar might very well be one of the regulars.]

Who the hell is TVHeadATX? Local wheat pasta provocateur reveals...a thing or two - Arts

And in early 2021, galleries started contacting me. And they said, “Who are you? What’s happening?” And I was like, “I’m just making art.” And they said, “Do you have gallery work?” And I’m like, “Yeah, sure.” And they say, “Can we see it?” And I was like, “Sure.” But I had three galleries that hit me — and two of them were the ones that turned me down before. And I didn’t tell them who I was, that I was the same person, I just said, “No, I’m cool, thanks.” But I took some stuff to the third gallery and worked with it for a while.

AC: So that was the beginning?

HST: And then Natassia Wilde found me in the Almost Real Things gallery, and she said, “I’m doing a pop-up in a retail space at South Congress for ten days, and I’d love to have some of your work in it.” And I thought, “Shit yeah, let’s do this.” Everything is a chance right now. I mean, things that I could have sold for $500 – if you came to my house and brought a six pack and a joint and we got high, you could have had the piece for $500 – but now these people tell me “Oh, I can get as much as $4,000.” And I was like, “Holy shit, are you?” just kidding me? What the fuck?” I couldn’t even comprehend that, because this is not the direction I wanted to go. Natassia sold three canvases and a handful of my prints – $5,000 – in 10 days. And I was like, “Okay, she’s a scammer like me, she can read people and sell to them.” So she represents my work at galleries. And I also do installation work – the guys at Mohawk just got back to me.

AC: So, in 2020, 2021, when the ‘ronas stopped everything. How has that affected your campaigns?

HST: When everything was boarded up and everyone was home during COVID, I covered the city with my art. I went out two or three nights a week. And everything was covered with plywood, so there were blank canvases everywhere, so I went to tape it all up. And that led me to meet SMACK, he’s a street performer in town. We became best friends in the street art scene, and he and I go out in the middle of the night to do street art together.

AC: And what about that, uh, was it a sculpture you did? An installation Downtown?

Who the hell is TVHeadATX? Local wheat pasta provocateur reveals...a thing or two - Arts

HST: Yes, near Sixth Street and Waller. Okay, there’s Violet Crown, and there’s a Mexican restaurant – and there’s an old building where everyone is graffitiing. And on top of That building, there is a TV pyramid with horns on it. That’s mine – and it’s been there for three years now. But the new owners, the people who bought the building, contacted me.

AC: Oh shit.

HST: Yeah, and I thought I was in trouble – because I’d clearly been on their roof, right? But they said, “Hey, just to let you know we’re not mad, and everything’s cool.” That was the first thing their rep said. They said, “We want to meet you.” And I thought, “Um, does this have anything to do with the police?” And they said, “No, not at all.” So I showed up, and she said, “Hello, we want to take that piece away and we want to pack it professionally and protect it. Because sooner or later we want to tell the history of this building – and we want your piece to be a part of that. So may we have your permission to break it down and put it in a crate and store it until we decide how we are going to present the history of this building to the community?” And I was like, “Holy fuck.”

AC: That is amazing. That’s damn cool.

HST: Me and my roommate – we hung up that piece in five minutes and 38 seconds. We had practiced everything before going there.

AC: Like for a robbery.

HST: Exactly – you to have until.

AC: Okay, I don’t mean this mean, but why is your artwork so popular? I mean, I think it looks great – it’s totally eye-catching – but you, you seem to really hit a nerve with this stuff.

HST: I think it’s anonymous? Is 50 to 60% of it. The thing is, there are a lot of TVHeads. People dress up for cosplay and do all sorts of things. It’s not like I’m the only one. That’s why I’m always TVHeadATX. Because even people I work with just post #tvhead when they write about me. But you type that into a search engine and you get a million different messages. But you plug in TVHeadATX and you get me – so I want to make that clear. I mean, there’s a local artist, and he just posted a video where he calls himself TV Man, and he’s got a TV on his head and he’s dancing, and – that’s not me. I am not the dancer.

AC: But you to be the man who created the first artwork for this Show Me Pizza project.

HST: Yeah, somehow Natassia knew Ben at Show Me Pizza or crossed paths with Ben, and together they came up with the idea for the box – this is my version of the story – to have a monthly performer and put their work on the box.

[Note: The Pizza Box Art project was initially pitched by Samantha Alcantara of Luxe Art Agency, nomming pies and brainstorming in Show Me Pizza with her associates.]

Who the hell is TVHeadATX? Local wheat pasta provocateur reveals...a thing or two - Arts

And in the beginning I was like, ‘Ehhhh.’ But look, I’m a designer. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been into making my own products and, like, ads and stuff…and I still do. And I’m proud of this project too – proud to work with Show Me Pizza and to have Natassia represent me. When asked if I would do this, I said, “Go try the pizza.” So I went there anonymously and gave it a try. And I’ve been in Austin since ’98, and I think it’s the best pizza in town now.

AC: Okay, but doesn’t it seem like there’s some weird connection here? You’re that powerless, deceitful wheat pasta man, aren’t you? Doing your transgressive shit under the cover of the night and so on. And now the anti-consumer TVHead message is: come on now – it is used to sell a consumable product?

HST: Oh, well, naturally – that’s the best thing ever. That’s the joke of the joke. Even though the art is on a pizza box for a company, I’m telling you precisely to consume it. It’s satire, as far as I’m concerned. It’s almost like that movie, you know, where they had the glasses, and, uh…

AC: They live by John Carpenter?

HST: Yes, it is. But I just make my shit so you don’t have to put on the glasses.

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