Interview from June 22, 2012
Etan: Thanks again for doing this interview for me. Its really an honor because I have like 3 of your paintings. I have the one with the DJ, the boroughs of New York, the one with the break dancer, and the one of Kareem. You are really talented.
Bua: Thanks Etan, pleasure to do this interview with you.
Etan: Ok, describe the environment that you grew up in. Did you grow up with both parents ?
Bua: Basically, I grew up with a single working mom. We lived in the upper west side of new York City. And my mom was one of those moms who worked a lot in order to keep food on the table. I didn’t have a father. My father went out to get milk, literally, when I was a few weeks old and he never came back. But, I did see him often because he was a soap star, so I would see him on TV. And he was a pretty good soap star dad. Like he would take his little kids to the ball game and do really nice things for his television children. But in my life, he was one of those dads that would say out of the blue hey I am coming to your birthday and I would be waiting looking for him anticipating his arrival and he would never show up. So, I grew up with all of these false images of what a father is suppose to be. So as a result of that, I ended up honestly hanging a lot in the streets and running with the wolves.
Etan: Wow, you know one of the main goals of this project is to show men that there are a lot of men who grew up in this type of a household that were able to make it in life and be successful. I want to use all of these men as examples of what can happen if you put your mind to it.
Bua: Yea, the world is definitely not over because you don’t have a father in your home. You know, I would rather have no father than an abusive father. I would rather have no father than a father who is emotionally unavailable. I think that one of the things that happens when you don’t have a father is that you go out and seek other male role models who can mentor you.
Etan: Is that something you did?
Bua: Definitely, but like I said, I was on the street. So my mentors were the people in the neighborhood who weren’t ..... hmmmmm how can I say this, they weren’t the most astute stand up guys if you know what I mean, but those were the people who I looked up to. They were the male role models. The street raised me as well. See, the thing with kids, whoever is raising them mother father whoever, don’t think that they are the ONLY ones raising them. Don’t think the peers, friends, teachers, just their outside environment as a whole isn’t raising them as well. Kids are able to get what they need when they are not getting it at home. Sometimes thats both good and bad, but they get what they need
Etan: So, you’re at home, you’re on the streets, you’re having all of these “non astute guys” as you call them that you are looking up to as role models, how did you keep from not going down the negative path and not end up another statistic. How were you able to hone your craft to become a tremendous success not only in your area of painting but as a man as well?
Bua: I think that, part of it has got to honestly be luck, because I could have easily gone down the path of least resistance. And part of it is my mother being very stable. I think that often times, one strong parent is better than two dysfunctional parents or weak parents, or parents who are weak together but strong apart. My mom was very strong, she was committed to raising me although she really had to work hard and often times wasn’t there, and of course she made mistakes as parents often times do. But there was a lot of love and appreciation. I think part of my artistic inspiration was rage and anger and I was able to have an outlet to plug it into. And like I said, I was lucky to find painting as an outlet. To be my craft. And I have put this in quotes. I called this “F@%& You” energy but now I call it love energy, but thats how I painted with anger. A lot of my peers were breakdancing to be somebody they were writing grafitti to be somebody, and make a name for themselves. I think that it was the grounded rock nature of my mother that was able to give me a foundation of strength
Etan: That's great and you touched on something that was really powerful. I work with a lot of kids in correctional facilities and I use poetry and writing as a way for them to get their frustrations out and it is really effective. It sounds like you did the same thing with painting. Talk a little about how valuable having some type of outlet is.
Bua: Well, the simplest way I can say it it, if you don’t have an outlet, you are going to explode. If you are generating a lot of electricity and a lot of energy and you don’t have anyplace to plug in that electricity you are going to explode or implode for that matter. Doesn’t have to be painting or writing, it could be athletics, could be sports, could be reading. For me, it was really painting and that was internal, and I had external outlets as well like breakdancing actually I was a professional breakdancer for many years and that movement that expression was my release. I needed both internal and external expressions. If you don’t have an outlet, you will begin to do very destructive things. I think naturally, the influences that are on the street are just there to provide you all of the opportunities to do destructive things. People wonder why kids do some of the things they do. Rob people and not even take their money, just mug them for no reason. Break windows. Start doing sick harmful things to animals. They have rage and it is manifesting itself in negative ways because that has become their outlets. Transferring that rage into something positive is probably the most important thing that every kid who is feeling that can do, and for some it may not be painting or basketball or writing it may be gardening or singing or sculpture etc but they have to find something or they will eventually explode.
Etan: Thats great one more question then I’mma let you go. You have a daughter and I know from experience having kids give you a whole new appreciation for life and you can’t put into words the feeling of love that you have for them, tell me a little about your relationship with your daughter and how you were able to learn how to be a father after never seeing it at home. Sorry for loaded question.
Bua: No, thats good. I don’t know if I have ever expressed all of this. Ok let me take a deep breath. I Honestly, I was afraid to have children. It wasn’t a planned thing, and my ex wife and I definitely didn’t plan it. And when it happened, I was a little panicked. It was like uh oh, I don’t have any skill set, I don’t know how to do this, what am I going to do? I didn’t have a dad so that I could say, ok that’s what you do. That’s how I handle this situation or that situation because I never saw what a real father was suppose to be. So, when I found out that I was having a child, it was a really scary situation for me. It wasn’t until she was born, and she grew older, it was like everyday the love grew deeper and deeper. Its like you said, its one of those things that you can’t describe in words. Everyone things that my DJ is my greatest painting, but really my greatest painting is my daughter. I would do anything for her, I would take a bullet for her. I would die for her. It is a very powerful thing to have a child, to be in her life and to be involved in her life. It just makes me sad to reflect that I didn’t have a father who could have and should have experienced all of that. In a lot of ways, I feel sorry for him because he missed out on that. I think about her first steps, to her first words, to those funny things that she does, her incredible drawings, and its one of those things that is invaluable and I will die for. Not many things I can say that about, but I will die for my daughter. Thats how much I love her and cherish her