Louis Mitchell

When we arrived on a freezing autumn night to the Stand to interview Louis, he and Lori were sitting inside with the doors closed and the heaters out. He had dressed up for us. Louis had on a large black pin-stripped suit jacket and black pants. Surprisingly, he was also wearing slippers.

“I don’t wear socks. Last year when it was snowing inches deep, I still didn’t wear socks” he announced half joking with a wicked smile. Lori had sent me a text earlier to say that he’d been practicing by interviewing himself all day. But he didn’t betray any hints of nervousness if he felt it earlier.


He smiled deep into the camera. “You’ve done this before!” I said.

He responded confidently, “Yeah, these two girls took pictures of me yesterday, I looked nice”.

I had never seen Louis so full of life. He spoke with purpose, and spoke at length about forgiveness and staying out of trouble.  

Louis, in his own words, was "born, bred and raised in New York City."

"I started drawing on 18th St and Madison, between running out of Benjamin Franklin High School, sneaking out, learning, watching people do their art. Afterward, I started learning how to draw. I figured out that’s what I wanted to become - an artist. And then I became an artist.

Yeah, I was 18 [when i started to draw]. I never forget. Now I’m 56, and when you’re old, you grow much better. I learned how to fight, with the Golden Gloves.

But it's not for me, I’d rather stick with my pens, with my pens and art."

Discussing how he found his way to The Stand and to Lori's community of artists, he said "I was walking by and I had pictures. I dropped by, I showed her the pictures. She said, 'I’ll keep them with mine and if anybody’s interested in buying, I’ll hold on to them so you can sell them.' She be good to me, if it wasn’t for her, I don’t know what I’d do.  She treats me like a son."

Louis' work has to be seen to be believed. They provide a glimpse into the whimsical and dark clouds which lie beneath his often cheerful demeanor. Superheros play in the foreground while reptiles with razor teeth float by in the distance. If you look carefully, you will inevitably find a penis or two hidden amongst the motif. When we ask him how he describes his own work, Louis is bashful and asks, "Do you like it?"  "QUOTE FROM LORI ABOUT HIS WORK

Louis and Deb at The Stand on 7th

Louis and Deb at The Stand on 7th

Louis with Roderick on Avenue C

Louis with Roderick on Avenue C

In addition to selling his art at The Stand, Louis is also a familiar figure in Alphabet City, peddling his art mostly around Avenue C.  At times Louis gets a big smile from customers, but at times the reception is not so friendly.

"I love to help people. Even though you don’t have too much to give. You have to help people. Even though they bad, and they give you a dirty look, they don’t mean nothing by that. They got to protect themselves."

Taking inspiration from whatever is around him, Louis tells me, "I like to draw good things, happy things. Happy women. Because they got dresses on, they wear pants, they sophisticated. I [also] draw Chinese people, with a dog, cow, guitar. I like that. When I’m by myself, I see myself as, not as a battleship, not as an Indian, not as a cowboy."

As we neared the end of our interview, I asked Louis what he sees himself as. He replied: 

"As a great artist."