You've probably seen Joe Suta's artwork outdoors--under the name Choke, he's spray painted or wheat pasted every part of Chicago I've ever been to. But recently he's taken it inside, for gallery shows, mural commissions, and a side hustle in custom-painted Nikes.
Miles Raymer: You've been painting Dunks.
Joe Suta: I've been painting shoes for [the Wicker Park sneaker boutique] Saint Alfred. I still haven't gotten them over there, but they're supplying me shoes to customize. I did a lot of work for Felix da Housecat. Technology's been ruining my life as far as people getting ahold of me.
MR: What are your designs like when you don't have someone telling you what to paint?
JS: I'm basically taking the stuff I've been doing on the street, like stencils and wheat paste, and making them real small. Today I walked into Quimby's and there were more books on street art than there were on traditional types. In Chicago graffiti is like a lesser form of gangbanging. I want to make it more huggable.
MR: What do you think about graffiti moving off the streets and into the marketplace?
JS: I'm not gonna lie. I've been able to work for myself for a while without punching a clock. But I'll never do a gallery, I'll never do a show, without putting my time in on the street. I was just in Baltimore last week and I couldn't even make it to the gallery show that I was in, but I still went out and painted the city.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Saverio Truglia.