Artists are cool

The following is a story I wrote today for the Jersey Journal about a Secaucus artist and his latest exhibit about a leather jacket. I found this guy to be extremely interesting and wanted to share the story on my blog.

Check out his work here:

For more photos, check out the story here:

Aggregated from

Painted posters of fictitious 1980s “B movies” and made-up cereal brand boxes featuring the likes of Gilbert Gottfried, Michael Keaton and Robert Blake adorn the studio of Secaucus artist Bobby Travieso, known by his fans as “Hairy Hand.”

The studio itself, located across the hall from Travieso’s bedroom in his Secaucus home, isn’t much larger than a walk-in closet, but it is jam-packed with the cartoonish artwork that Hairy Hand has become known for in the New Jersey art scene.

However, his newest project, which will be featured at the Monroe Center for the Arts during the Hoboken Artist Studio Tour on Sunday, Nov. 9, is a step in a completely new direction for Travieso: photography.

“I was cleaning out my closet one day and I came across my old high school leather jacket, the last thing I still have from high school” explained Travieso, a Manhattan native from Washington Heights with a large presence and booming voice. “I used to wear it to look bigger and tougher to ward off bullies. Now I look at it nostalgically. I decided I wanted to do something artistic with it.”

The inspiration for a photo gallery came from Travieso’s favorite director, Jim Jarmusch.

“Jarmusch had all these characters in his movies that had nothing to do with each other, but would be brought together by a single item, like a car or a hotel room,” explained Travieso. “I really liked that idea, so I thought I would do the same for my jacket.”

Starting in June, Travieso went about taking photos of friends and family wearing the jacket. However, Travieso says the project took a dramatic turn when he met artist Scarlet Lewis at a graduation party in July. 

Lewis is the mother of a child who was killed in the Sandy Hook, Conn. school shooting in 2012. When she heard about Travieso’s project, she wanted in.

“I was stunned because I felt like I was in the presence of history and tragedy,” said Travieso. “After that photo shoot, the project took on a little more importance.”

Travieso continued throughout the summer connecting with strangers, co-workers and long lost friends, asking all of them to put on the old, tattered jacket. With each picture, Travieso includes a statement about who the person is and how they came to put on the jacket.

“The theme of the project for me is that when many different people come together for one purpose, in that moment, they are not so different at all,” said Travieso. “I’m trying to capture the humanity in everybody, their tragedies and their comedies and their serious sides. Plus, it’s nice to bring people together for an occasion that doesn’t involve a casket.”

Travieso originally planned to finish the project in August, but extended it because of all the people he found wanting to wear his jacket. He now has more than 50 subjects donning the jacket that he can feature in his upcoming exhibit. 

He has also created several pieces of original art work to supplement the gallery along with the jacket itself, which will be on display in a shadow box Travieso built himself.

Travieso also has an agreement to feature the exhibit for the entire month of January at the Secaucus Public Library. Travieso says he is in the process of emailing other libraries and exhibition centers around New Jersey and would love to take his gallery on tour.

“Whats been so special about this project for me is that it started out as something fun and snowballed into a more serious project,” said Travieso. “The more people I involved, the more rewarding it was. Each person was so different and they all told me about their lives during the photo shoot, its the first time I ever involved people in my art.”

Surprisingly enough, Travieso is not a professional artist, but rather a Federal Express courier. He considers his art therapy and dreams of the day when he can hang up his work boots for good.

“Someday art will be my full-time job, it will be a great feeling,” Travieso said. “During the day I am a  FedEx courier, at night I am an artist. Art is my passion.”

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