Des Moines man makes statement as artful activist

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Jordan Weber doesn’t call himself a street artist anymore. The term’s overused. Overrated. Over-commodified, he says.

Instead, he calls himself an artist and an activist, one who creates statements of intrigue on found canvases. Sometimes the canvases are buildings. And sometimes he doesn’t have permission.

“You’re in a state of complete awareness. You have to be,” said Weber, recalling 4 a.m. moments in years past when he painted or plastered art covertly around Des Moines.

Recently, though, Weber began dreaming up outdoor art he can do in daylight, The Des Moines Register reported (http://dmreg.co/1gVTe3B ). The 29-year-old is plotting a series of art installations that aim to turn abandoned buildings and lots in the urban core of Des Moines, where Weber grew up, into community green spaces.

The first such project, an environmental art and garden concept plotted for River Bend, is in its early planning stages, he said.

“There’s a direct line to health in the inner city and disconnection from nature,” said Weber. He hopes his ideas for art spaces can become realities, ones that give urban residents a nearby place to reflect on nature and creativity.

Four months ago, in the dead of winter, Weber began painting Louis Vuitton logos on a boarded-up house at 15th Street and University Avenue.

Within about four minutes, the building’s owner pulled up beside him.

“He was like, ‘What are you doing here?’ ” Weber said. “Because there’s a history with people chilling and doing whatever kind of drug in that house.”

Turns out the guy was a friend of Weber’s uncle, he said, so he explained the idea behind the project. Part of the idea, he said, is to bring down the much-idolized French fashion house from haughty heights of materialism to the less luxe streets of Des Moines.

“He was all for it,” Weber said.

Last week, a photo Weber took of the Louis Vuitton house ended up on the Facebook page of Oakland Mayor Jean Quan as an example of “illegal dumping, graffiti, dilapidation and other forms of blight” that residents should report.

“Wrong city Mayor Quan!” Weber commented under the post. An apology later came, apparently from Quan’s assistant. Weber offered his blight-to-art services in return, and said more such projects would be on the way.

“There will be more attempts to shock my generation … hopefully resulting in action away from material possessions,” he wrote under the post.

T.J. Moberg owns Moberg gallery, where Weber’s sellable paintings are sold. Weber makes a living off his work, but Moberg said he’s far from focused on the profits.

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