Federico Massa aka Iena Cruz, born in 1981 under Milan’s sky, began his artistic career in 1997 on the streets of Italy’s Economic capital. A Fine Arts graduate, his talent ranges from painting to installations, his art has been admired in exhibitions across Europe. Today he lives and works in Milan and New York, specifically in Williamsburg, where he placed his signature on the walls of many large buildings, drawing extraordinary murals signed by Iena Cruz.
What brought you from Milan to New York?
The need to explore and discover myself, to get involved with myself. I felt the need to grow as a man and artist. Milan never failed me.
I’ve always been attracted and inspired by the great metropolises, Milan became smaller day by day and so after a careful reconnaissance during the summer of 2009, I decided that New York would be the city I wanted to move to..
There’s not a define time frame. It’s an evolution that comes from inspiration. It can take me a week or even a month. No time boundaries.
Is street art just a form or art or can it even be a source of income?
In USA, it can be a source of income. I can sell art pieces and sign partnership with major brands.
Where do you work best: Italy or New York?
In New York for sure. Here it does not matter how old you are or who you know, meritocracy wins and especially there are ‘no taboos’ of any kind in talking about money and fees. To Italian readers might seem strange, but here people are payed for their job.
What else do you do besides street art ?
I am a professional scenographer. In Milan I worked with short films while here in NY I work as a set designer in various music videos including “Green Back Boogie” by Ima Robot, whose song is the soundtrack of the TV series Suite. Mainly, I work as a set designer for fashion shoots.
Artists have unfortunately almost all moved from Williamsburg considering the high cost of rents. Bushwick has now become the new destination. But because of the gentrification, rents are becoming expensive and we are seeking new destinations.
New York is continuously growing and developing. From one month to the other, your neighborhood can change. I live in East Williamsburg in Brooklyn and in front of my house there is a new building and new shops and restaurants are opening everyday.
The bright side of this is that New York is becoming safer, it does not seem true that ten years ago in these areas you could also get shot.
However, despite being apparently safe, it’s always best to keep your eyes open. This is a crazy city, after all.
Your stage name is Ienacruz. Why?
Cruz is my tag. It’s the name I chose when I started doing illegal graffiti.
Hyena comes from hyena ridens, a character I created in 2006 when, after a trip to San Francisco, I discovered street art. Afterwards, the names have merged into Ienacruz.
Do you feel free here in the country that symbolizes freedom?
Despite all the rules and prohibitions of the city, I have to admit that I feel free. Free from old and dusty cultural barriers. I feel free from a closed-minded culture, free to be able to do what I like and be considered for what what do I do.
In New York, how do you make yourself recognizable from your competitors?
I have always considered competition as a positive booster, you can only learn from artist who are better than you are. And this city have plenty of them.
I let the others evaluate my performance, I will just go straight on my way and never look back.
You’ve been able to obtain a green card for artistic merit. What are your next projects?
I have many projects. Mural paintings is certainly what gives me more in terms of personal growth and in terms of earnings. People appreciate murals a lot, probably they are attracted by the composition of the images and the choice of colors that I use. Due to popular demand, I will keep n creating as long as the public is happy. I want to give myself new goals once I’ve reached one.
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