Kevin Wendall (1956-2011), aka FA-Q. His features are rough, his face weathered. He is 49 years old and dresses like a teenage punk. He goes by the name of FA-Q, pronounced in two words, not three. It’s a name that goes back to a hard attitude he used to put on for the broken streets of New York City – like a clown puts on makeup. He was once a prince among painters in New York, but then FA-Q’s life turned into a meaningless decade of imprisonment and destitution. His drug addiction turned him into a criminal. It stole his life, which he tried desperately to buy back through creating art. Kevin Wendell is his real name and he is off drugs now.

“The meaning of doing art when I was using [drugs] was to exorcize the demons from my mind. It was my therapy, transferring the poison to the paper, making real the things that bothered me,” he explains. “I used to wake up, asking why I had to wake up.” He drew suicidal, insane faces, chronicles of life in hell. He took the streets for a canvas, spraying graffiti all over New York. It was the heyday of graffiti art in New

In the mid-80s he was a rising star and had drive, talent and ambition. He was a rough genius and he worked constantly, and courted chaos like a demon. His motto was “Make Shit Happen” and he sprayed this all over the city. “I was starting to get my work sold,” he says. “I was given a grant and went to Finland. I had a studio in Dusseldorf in West Germany.” He worked with Italian master artist Enrico Baj, one of Italy’s best-known contemporary painters. Heavily anti-establishment, the Rivington School was criticized for being destructive and anti-social. “We were against commercial art, and against capitalism, championing art for people with no money,” FA-Q says. The school adopted a dissident belief in the “great confusion”, a philosophy of sorts called neoism, coined by Canadian performing artist Monty Cantsin who called himself an “immortal hard-art revolutionary.”

At his low ebb, FA-Q slept in the garden “on a tin roof” as he was a junkie. They had to lock up everything in the garden; otherwise he’d sell it to feed his addiction. The garden was built from junk and scrap metal, a product of a time and place when the neighbor-hood was still cheap and dangerous. Today, the New York street artist scene is fading. The artists’ lots are gone, victims of gentrification and a changing scene.

But FA-Q’s art is still a reflection of his life. “My art is like a journal, an inward vision that is getting clearer with time. That has to do with my age. It’s a spiritual journey.” His imagination is always there, and it reacts to whatever is going on.