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[INTERVIEW] The Artist Behind the ‘Biggie’ Monument Tells The Story Before the Sculptures – A Look Into the Life of Sherwin Banfield

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Sherwin Banfield and the Biggie masterpiece has been the talk around the town for awhile now. 

Sherwin Banfield is an artist based in Brooklyn, New York who grew up in the mist of the music. Brooklyn is a place of cultural, of music and bringing people together, which is also what Sherwin’s art represents as well. 

Last year, we were in awe at the Biggie statue that was placed in the city for not only the tourists to see but for the locals to come out and visit as well. Sherwin Banfield placed what he knew in the statue and at the time didn’t realize the amount of people who would praise him for creating something so memorable. 

Biggie Masterpiece Biggie Masterpiece

Sherwin Banfield isn’t just an artist but a father as well who understands the meaning of being grounded for yourself and your family. He has created many sculptures but his favorite one is his Notorious B.I.G monument. 

We were able to speak to Sherwin Banfield about the Biggie masterpiece and how creating his art all started. 

Parlé: Before we get into your Biggie sculpture, I want to discuss the fact that you created your own toys when you were a child. How did that come about? What made you want to create your own toys?

Sherwin: Well there was always competition between my older brother and myself. Then it was the issue of resources and accessibility to the things that we would see on television. The talent that lied between my brother and I was something that we always expressed and we would compete with each other when we drew cars. So when these new cartoons, whether it be transformers or G.I Joe, once these things came on tv, such as the toys that weren’t as accessible to us, we decided to create our own version of them. We said to ourselves, that we can make it work with what we have. Which at that time we had the cardboard, the skills and we can draw. All  we had to do was cut out the drawing  use some scotch tape and re-create what we were not capable of having at the time. 

Parlé: So do yo believe that was the start of you wanting to create your sculptures, such as Biggie?

Sherwin: I think everything is a start. Everything that you present outward and the experience that you have is a build up to what you do in the future. So yes, to answer that question just being able to get my hands exercised in creating something that was three dimensional is a precursor to something larger and more detailed, more advanced, more resourceful. I had minimal resources as a kid and now as an adult I have a lot more resources to where I can showcase my craft. 

Parlé: At what age did you start creating your sculptures?

Sherwin: Well as I mentioned earlier about my path and my creativity unfolding organically. I went to Parsons School of Design, which led me to many things and as a result led me to Art Student League which happened organically. After Parsons I didn’t feel compelled to do anything else artistically. I don’t think I was passionate about it, I really just wanted to live and see the world. So I got a job in a skyscraper, fixing computers. Which gave me an opportunity to see the world and have some resources that enabled me to travel. I think that was a set up for my lived experiences. While being in the company of Vogue magazine, (which is a  high fashion, high level, high thinking environment) it added to my creativity again. In 2010, I started taking sculpture classes which led to an opportunity to do a public art program, which I started in 2012/2013. I was blessed to be able to get a taste on how it would be to be a public artist and what it took to make public art. The steps and the process helped me to understand how extremely evolved it is and how it required a great deal of tenacity to continue in the field. So when it came time for my own personal stories to show up in my own work, Hip-Hop was the foundation of it all. It honestly sparked after a trip to Austria. My wife and I were invited to a wedding, as we were out site-seeing we ended up going to the Town of Mozart, and you could tell it was the town of Mozart because Mozart was everywhere. The art was outside the buildings, on cafes, squares, you saw sculptures and museums. At that point, I thought to myself, well Brooklyn has all sorts of musical geniuses, I could bring something this to Brooklyn. I told myself that I would start making Hip-Hop monuments in Brooklyn to showcase the talent and history that was created. I began my journey in 2018, and here we are 5 years later with the Biggie Monument. 

Parlé: How did you feel when you were presented on ‘Brooklyn Made’?

Sherwin: It started with an email, you never know if these emails are catfished or if they are real. So you look for some sort of letterhead or something that gives it the authenticity. So I responded, when I did my research and saw that Brooklyn Made is really a series that is apart of an incredible institution, which is BRIC I was impressed and happy. They focus on highlighting creatives that represent Brooklyn, that are storytellers and contributors that are dedicated to their craft. I thought that this could be an incredible opportunity to be apart of. When I responded, I  was given the opportunity to a film crew & set up in my studio. I thought that this would be magical, I would be able to tell my story, talk about my process and talk about my inspirations and what the possibilities are for this sculpture being in Brooklyn and the timelessness of it because it is such an historical, cultural opportunity. Christopher Wallace and Notorious BIG, gives meaning to Brooklyn and to the cultural and to just high aspirations. And to have this recorded with an institution like BRIC, I thought well this is the perfect marriage. It’s timelessness of it being the 50 Year anniversary of hip-hop, it just worked out. The time and place and opportunity just mixed up to make this video happen, is pretty magical. 

Parlé: Understanding the inspiration that Hip-Hop has brought you in your life. What else inspires you to create your sculptures?

Sherwin: I would say a way to do something, a need to add something to our culture. I think we each are given our own skill set, if we don’t use it we basically lose it. It’s really how you set your mind with everything. I could’ve decided to be a chef, if I would’ve set my mind to become a chef, I would be a chef right now. When you create your own opportunities and think about what it is that you want out of life, the world around you would start to offer you opportunities as you take that journey. So when I decided that sculpture is the path that I wanted to take opportunities and ideas decided to present itself. They evolved and I began to become inspired and here I am making sculptures that is based on my past and my present. 

Parlé: Being a creator, life happens and we can become tired of unmotivated to create. So what continues to motivate you? & How do you get through those dry spells? 

Sherwin: I think it’s the fact that I have all of these grand ideas and knowing that it takes multiple steps to achieve them. The process, the alchemy, of being able to dream up something and watch it come to life through your own struggles and problem-solving and tenacity. It’s the joy of the journey as well. So what inspires me is seeing the joy, the process and what is possible from something coming from the mind to reality. With my hands and the hands of collaborators, to one goal. Understanding that this project, this thing that I created it could potential impact or just inspire someone else. It could just be one person, it doesn’t have to be an entire group people, just one person who can take that and continue this life of inspiration. 

Parlé: There is always going to be something that gives us the true test in our purpose, could you tell us some of the obstacles that you had to go through?

Sherwin: Well, I’ll tell you. I’ll answer it this way, the only true tests comes from my kids and my family. Everything else that I do that is creative is an organic process. I kind of subscribe to this idea, story of this Chinese farmer right. The Chinese farmer had a kid, a boy and he also had a horse. One day the horse ran away, the villagers said “oh my gosh your horse ran away, what are you going to do that’s bad news”. The farmer said “well, maybe or maybe not we’ll see.” The horse came back the next day with another horse, so the villagers said, “wow now you have two horses that’s great!” The farmers said, “well it is maybe or maybe not.” The next day, his son rides one of the horses and falls off and breaks his back, the villagers said “oh my gosh the new horse broke your kids back, that’s bad news.” The farmer says, “well yeah.” The next day, The Chinese army shows up looking for recruits for the war but they couldn’t pick his son because his sons back was broken. The villager said, “oh my gosh  your son can’t go to war.” So it’s just this idea that whatever happens in your life, whatever gets tossed at you, you have to decide how you will react to it. That’s the only thing that you have control over. Yes there may be obstacles, it may be the material getting shipped late or someone not being able to help me at this particular time but it will always be something. This piece was delayed and should’ve been installed in May of 2022 but it got installed in October of 2022. Well that’s great because now the piece will be living for longer and during the anniversary of Hip-Hop. So you know, things happen and I don’t look at it like a hardship, I just look at it as just the process. 

Parlé: What is the message that you want the black and brown babies to gain when they see your sculptures?

Sherwin: That’s a hard question to answer cause life is full of so many possibilities. I guess understanding that leaving my sculpture can introduce a world that is outside of what they may potential know. That is something that I would be proud of. That representation which I haven’t seen in this particular way which is sculpture. It is something that isn’t typically taught in school. Even the process, hopefully it inspires them to investigate the process and investigate whether they can be apart of something as monumental. 

Parlé: What would be your favorite piece that you have created? Why?

Sherwin: My favorite piece is my most current piece. I’m kind of like Miles Davis in the aspect because Miles Davis never looked back or at least he didn’t harp on his past. He will bring it up as an accomplish to getting to where he is now so every piece that I do is my latest and greatest accomplishment. There is a story of just overcoming obstacles, every piece lives up to my latest and greatest idea. And it also borrows from the previous piece. So the Biggie piece is my favorite piece right now but I am working on a new piece that I think will be my favorite piece because I am enjoying the journey, I am enjoying the process. Some of the elements that I learned from the Biggie piece I am taking it to a new idea. 

Parlé: What is the new piece that you are working on right now? 

Sherwin: What I am working on now is a piece called Brooklyn’s Botanical Garden and this piece is going to be apart of a theme called Branching Out. They have given me an opportunity to be free in my approach. The tree I am creating is this Brooklyn hip-hop tree, with each branch representing a neighborhood in Brooklyn. The branch will have fruits and bear fruits with the hip hop artists that came from that certain neighborhood. I am in love with it right now because I am enjoying this process.  

Parlé: Besides the piece that you are currently working on, what are some of the other pieces you believe that you will work on in the future?

Sherwin: I think I am going to work on other ideas and other sculptures that are apart of my story, when you live past 40 you should have a couple of stories in your background. So I have a few more ideas to pluck from my journey that I think I would like to represent as a sculpture. 

Parlé: What is something that you want someone to gain by looking at your sculptures, listening to your interviews or anything else they may run into that represents you. 

Sherwin: Taking what I have accomplished in my life, applies in some way to there’s. But with absolutely dedication to follow a path, stick to it. Takes breaks but don’t stop entirely. My path is about continually having life obstacles, no matter what there is a consistency with me that continues to create on this path of making art. 

Biggie Smalls Biggie Smalls

“It’s great to know that it is completed and it’s living outside of the home. But it is more satisfying to see the reaction it has on the visitors. Seeing the sculptures out in the public is beautiful but recognizing the reactions from the visitors who travel internationally to see the sculpture is really a blessing.” – Sherwin Banfield


Images Credit: Monique Carboni

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