Bleeding Love

Friday, July 20, 2018

The year was 1996, and James Goldcrown was 16. Working for a darkroom in London that developed photographs for the city’s newspapers, the teenager was delivering prints to The Daily Express one afternoon when he met a photojournalist named Steve Woods. Woods, who was taken by Goldcrown’s creative energy and drive, would soon be attending Paris Fashion Week and asked the young man if he wanted to tag along. Goldcrown couldn’t believe his luck. As fate would have it, the experience launched his career, from fashion photographer to the successful street artist behind the Instagram-favorite Bleeding Hearts murals. 

Within weeks, the teenager found himself backstage at the Versace show in the fashion capital of the world, rubbing shoulders with the supermodel Naomi Campbell, who at the time was one of only a handful of models able to achieve what was considered an unprecedented level of fame in the years before social media. “I was overwhelmed by the elegance,” says the LA-based Goldcrown, who’s hanging his hat in the East Village while he’s in town. “The lifestyle was so appealing,” he says, “and everyone was so glamorous.”

It was on that fateful night that Campbell invited Goldcrown along to an after-party (one of her bouncers cryptically wrote the address of the soirée on his arm), and within hours he found himself in the company of celebrities like Prince and Madonna. After Goldcrown spent 30 minutes talking to the director George Lucas—a conversation that felt oddly normal, he says—he knew that he was being called into the world of fashion. “I need this,” he said to himself that night. “This is where I want to be.”

Asked to name the most memorable subject he’s been able to photograph, he answers without hesitation. “Kate Moss,” he gushes, and because he is at a loss for words to describe the magnitude of the experience, he instead launches into yet another story about an unforgettable night working in the fashion world. This one is just as good, though the players are different, and it includes a then 20-something Goldcrown forgoing his first night on the job as a barman at a strip club for a night on the town with Moss. “It was a good night,” he says, smiling.

But within a matter of years, the harsh reality of the industry would mean the demise for Goldcrown’s fashion fairytale. “People love you until they get your photos, and everyone is promising you credits rather than money,” he says. In 2007, Goldcrown moved to New York and found work as a photo correspondent for Dazed and Confused magazine (now known as Dazed) and a studio photographer for a clothing commerce company. Describing the latter experience, Goldcrown doesn’t mince his words: “It was the worst job I ever had in my life.” He would spend his days entirely uninspired, sometimes photographing 300 pairs of shoes in a single afternoon, and it was at that time that he knew he wanted out. Quitting that job “was the most amazing feeling in the world,” Goldcrown says. “All of the weight was finally off my shoulders.”

During the waning years of his career as a full-time photographer, Goldcrown had started experimenting with mixed media by combining his photographs with his abstract paintings, and, along with an artist friend, he began selling his work on the street. It wasn’t easy for a painter to achieve success in the pre-Instagram days of yore, but after he started focusing all of his time on this new medium, he began to garner a small following of New York art enthusiasts looking for great pieces by undiscovered artists. “It was literally $300 for a painting, and you’ve got this wad of money and you looked like a drug dealer,” he remembers, chuckling to himself, “but you were selling art.” The lifestyle of hustling his art on the street became an addiction in and of itself for Goldcrown, and when reminiscing about that time, he admits that they were some of the most exciting years of his life. He felt passion, he was inspired, and he was beginning to make a name for himself.

If you’re living in New York, you’ve definitely come across some of Goldcrown’s most famous work. Many of you have leaned against it, and some of you have even walked on it; no doubt a number of you have taken selfies with it. Yes, it’s James Goldcrown who is responsible for the two dozen Lovewall/Bleeding Hearts murals you’ll find decorating walls, storefronts, and sidewalks throughout the city, mesmerizing passersby with their buoyant and simplistic yet innovative patterns of multicolored hearts. This particular art series of Goldcrown’s, which he began about four years ago while experimenting one day with some spray paint and a blank canvas, quickly upped his game as an artist; today, along with these murals, he confides that he is commissioned to create about 12 paintings a month for private owners all across the world. Clients are welcome to request commissions through his website, although today the majority of his requests come through his Instagram. And it’s no wonder; Goldcrown’s murals are what New York’s social media savvy describe as some of the most “Insta-worthy” backdrops in the city.

So what’s next for Goldcrown? Presently, he is debuting a new Bleeding Hearts/Lovewall mural on Water Street in the Financial District, which is what brought him to town from the west coast for the week. But he’s got an even greater, more inspired, and infinitely more complex project not too far down the pike: his wife of two years will be delivering their first child in the fall.

While Goldcrown describes his anticipation of fatherhood, his eyes take on a new light, even brighter than when he was reminiscing about his tales of fashion lore. “I’ve lived my good life, I’ve enjoyed my single life, and now I’m ready to be a dad,” he says. And it is here that the artist alludes to a fairy tale of the more traditional sort, perhaps foreshadowing how dramatically this next chapter of his life will differ from his past, one that in the years to come he may begin to describe as a mere prologue. “But I think all men, we are just like kids,” he says with a boyish grin. “It’s the way we were built—like Peter Pan.”


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