‘Found’ Art and Free Hugs: Talking with Phil Jones
Next to the lake in Powderhorn Park, a tree holds a sign that reads, “Free hugs for Hippies”. Up on the street another sign, this one a sheet of paper stapled a telephone poll, says in faded print, “LOST: resolution due to copying”; another sign simply read “LOST” with a picture of the cast of the television series LOST and a caption reading “someone seriously needs to bring it back”.
The ‘found’ artwork — created, stumbled upon, and documented online by Minneapolis artist and designer Phil Jones — has been making its way around the web, including local blogs and popular national sites like theDailyWh.at.
“There are many things that prompted me to start putting up fliers around Minneapolis,” says Jones. “One thing in particular is using traditional mediums to reconnect with the general public. Much of design is preformed for the design community at large. While getting their approval is nice and validating I felt that much of my work was not making day to day life for regular people any more tolerable or entertaining. I love the thought of making a stranger smile on their way to the bus or work.”
While public space is an important element to the character — the punchlines are much sneakier and much funnier where the pieces hang on telephone poles — the open elements can also be an issue. “I can’t trust that these pieces will always be there for everyone so to ensure that people do get to see them I like to document everything I do,” says Jones. That’s why he started the blog to chronicle his work, phildesignart.tumblr.com.
In-between the snapshots of his “art on the street”, Jones also includes his submissions to Threadless, the DIY t-shirt design site. His t-shirt portfolio includes several plays on words and images, including a “rebel” mash-up of a Star Wars rebel fighter posed in the iconic James Dean “Rebel Without a Cause” stance and a monetary image that mixes the “all seeing eye” on U.S. dollars with Sauron from Lord of the Rings.
Public art is no way to pay the bills, so has t-shirt making been enough for Jones to retire? “I wish. Threadless has been an incredible platform for me as an artist/designer. I love to tell jokes with my images and what better medium than tshirts and of course Lost and Missing signs. Even if I were able to retire early I hope to keep doing what I am doing for a very long time. Since I started doing design work I don’t believe I have really worked a day in my adult life. I really do love what I do.”