It was during her work commute on a day in May, when BuzzFeed editor Lauren Yapalater spotted a piano along the shores of the East River, under the Brooklyn Bridge."There's A Piano In the East River Begging To Be Loved",Yapalater shared with readers.The media,locals and tourists began to flock to the piano.It was the subject of video and photo shoots.The piano even has its own Twitter handle (@EastRiverPiano).The 1915 Mason & Hamlin piano became Manhattan's piano,"our piano".Yapalater echoed the questions that were on everyone's minds;Why was it there? When did it get there? How did it get there? Who put it there? Two weeks after the piano made its debut, Hek Tad's tag could be found all over it. It left us wondering, who, exactly, is Hek Tad?
When directly asked if the piano is his,Hek Tad takes a long pause.Although he won't confirm (or deny) his role in the piano,Hek Tad does open up about his past,his work and where he is going.
To only associate Hek Tad with the "East River Piano"is foolish.He is a street artist whose work history goes way beyond the piano's May 2014 debut."I'm a pioneer",he shares."I started my work in 1982 on trains." Although he took small breaks from his art over the years to focus on family,it was his mother who inspired him to jump right back into his work full time."Before my mom passed,she looked at me and said 'Stick to your art,that's what I want for you.'I remember her painting when I was a kid.Art is all I know.I'm a born artist.It's in my blood."
Standing at the forefront of street art,Hek Tad has seen the movement shift from being labeled as vandalism to being in high demand at auction houses."It's weird. I use to approach galleries and they wouldn't give me the time of day.I use to go up to the High Line and hang big canvases of my artwork there, and expose my work that way. Now galleries are calling me and asking 'When can we fit you in?'"
As he speaks,his voice fills with honesty and humbleness.He is an artist who leaves his ego at the door.He works with and learns from his peers.His admiration and respect for his artistic forefathers keeps him driven and hungry."Someone told me something about 10 years ago that I will never forget."As he starts to speak about this advice that has left its mark on him,he begins to open up about an afternoon he spent with Francesco Clemente in NYC."I like his work and had found his address.I just walked up to his place and rang the doorbell."Rather than slam the door,Clemente,the Italian contemporary artist whose work spans four decades,welcomed Hek Tad in."He invited me into his studio.He showed me his art collection.It was like Christmas.He just sat on the floor,cross-legged, talking to me in his studio.He looked at a few slides of my work and said 'You know I'm keeping these,right?'And this is what I'll never forget;he told me 'To make it,you have to go to shows,show your face,talk and get recognized'".
"I have a lot art in me.I have a lot of art to give.I haven't even started.This Spring,I'm going to tear it up.I like where I'm at".Hek finds it amusing when he sees people trying to get their hands on his work."I'll do some artwork on a piece of furniture on the street and later I'll see people dragging the couch down the street." Art lovers don't have to roam the streets of NYC to check out Hek Tad's new artwork.His work will be featured in The Vola Vida Collective"The Holiday Edition".The show, which also features SFA UNO and Chris Prandy,takes place on December 17th at 7pm at Cherry Tavern (441 E. 6th Street, Manhattan).Hek Tad will have 12 new pieces available for sale at the show. A portion of the proceeds will go to the National Fibromyalgia Association,For Hek Tad sales/press, you can contact Kate Ruby Klenfner/Vola Vida at KateRuby@gmail.com.
The East River piano is merely a ghost now.It slowly surrendered to the waters of the river and decomposed.Although New Yorkers witnessed its slow death,they relished in the celebration of it's existence. The artist who placed the piano there reminded onlookers of the wonder of art; its ability to bring people together,to make people yield to life's demands and enjoy the simple pleasure of daydreaming. Whoever you are, thank you.