Scratching the Surface: Danielle Mastrion

March 10, 2015 | Aymann Ismail

ANIMAL showcases a different street artist regularly in our feature, Scratching the Surface. This week, we profile Danielle Mastrion.

Danielle Mastrion

Decade you were born in:
’80s baby — but early ’80s. I was six when I saw Michael Jackson on the BAD tour, just to give you an idea.

City you currently live:
Brooklyn, New York — born & raised.

Drugs or natural highs?
Natural highs, always. In the form of finishing a wall, yoga, or traveling and (hopefully) jumping off waterfalls. Or some truffle mac and cheese.

How did you get your name?
My parents (haha). Daniel is my father’s middle name, so I got Danielle. I’m half Italian (Italian-American, on my dad’s side) and half Eastern European on my mother’s side; Mastrion is the shortened version of Mastroianni, the original spelling before they came over from Italy.


Why do what you do?
I’ve never not painted, whether canvas or walls. I don’t know how to do anything else. Murals and walls, I feel, reach everyone. I’ve had a lot of people tell me they aren’t ‘arty’ and ‘can’t’ go to galleries, or feel out of place; even people from my family would feel uncomfortable going into a gallery. So putting murals out on the street makes art accessible to everyone, and it’s free. I’ve had a lot of people contact me & say, “I see your mural every day when I walk to the train, and it always makes me smile in the morning.” That’s why I do what I do. Or for somewhat educational purposes. I do mostly portraits, and recently, I try to be a little more careful about who I put up on a wall. I did a huge Malala Yousafzai mural at the Bushwick Collective, and even if one person asks “who’s that?” and goes to look her up, finds out about these inspiring people – THAT’s why I do what I do. Lexi Bella and I did a big “Bring Back Our Girls” wall at Welling Court this past summer to bring attention & awareness to the Nigerian girls who were kidnapped; same thing — people had no idea about what was going on, and our wall was able to make people look it up or find out more information if they didn’t know earlier. When I did the MCA or the Kool Herc at 5POINTZ, that was a tribute to NYC & hip-hop. So was the Beastie Boys wall at Centre-Fuge Public Art Project. So there’s various reasons.

How does your mother feel about your art?
She absolutely loves it. She is very proud. I wouldn’t be where I am without my mother. She has always supported my art; both my parents have. From the time I was a little girl, I was constantly drawing and painting, so I think they both realized that it’s a lifelong passion. So they both have always been extremely supportive. My mom calls me up and says things like, “Why are they calling ‘murals’ bombing? Or tagging? You’re not bombing OR tagging!” when she see’s articles about street art. She knows what’s up!

Are you making a living off your art? How’s that working out so far?
It’s on and off. I do get a lot of opportunities, like travel and supplies covered, so sometimes it’s more like a barter system for better life opportunities, which always leads to more commercial work. Last year I had two solo shows, which were pretty successful, so it depends on how much I have going on. But recently I can’t complain! I think anyone living in NYC & working in a creative field has many, many hustles.

Fuck the art world or embrace the art world?
It’s a love/hate relationship. Depend which part of the ‘world’ you’re talking about. I love the community aspect of the other artists, how anywhere you go in the world or country, you have artists waiting to chill, give you walls, collab, build; I find the more I travel the more this world is very small and it’s like a second family; but when you get into the gallery aspect, who the buyers are, who the art dealers are, who they give shows to and why, etc., it changes. So…love/hate.

Do you bring your smartphone into the bathroom with you? Why?
Yup. It’s easy to concentrate! Like locking the door of your office! I’ve always made major life decisions in the shower. I call it “office hour.” (Not that I take hour long showers, just saying.) Something about the quiet, silence, close walls; it helps me think uninterrupted. And if something hits me, it’s beneficial to have my phone ready!


Do you ever feel like giving up?

Suggest an artist to follow.
I can’t pick, all my friends are so talented & inspiring. Some of my favorites: Lexi Bella, Mas Paz, Don Rimx, Col Wallnuts, Esteban del Valle… All are doing great things for the world and are incredible artists.