Filmmaker Zack Obid is trembling with excitement: he has just found a miniature work of art during a treasure hunt that an American artist organizes each week in his Brooklyn neighborhood.
Steve Wasterval estimates that over the past three years he has painted and hidden around 80 tiny landscape drawings of Greenpoint, an area with a large Polish community seen as increasingly hip in recent times with the arrival of young creatives .
“I really wanted to give my art away. I wanted to display it on the walls and on the street,” says Wasterval, 40, in his studio inside a former Faber Castell pencil factory.
“I remember thinking they should be tiny paintings so I can hide them and people can find them and I can find as many as I want,” he adds.
Typically, every weekend at an unspecified time, Wasterval publishes on his Instagram account a photo of a landscape in front of the spot that inspired the work, still in Greenpoint.
Within minutes, a dozen people arrive on the scene and begin searching for the artwork everywhere, from behind a wall to an emergency exit.
Sometimes Wasterval is nearby, sometimes not. If asked for help, he sends clues to treasure hunters via direct messages on Instagram.
The paintings measure approximately five centimeters by 3.8 centimeters (2 inches by 1.5 inches). He finishes them in about an hour and says he will never sell them.
“Every week people message me saying they want to buy one, commission them. No, never, never,” insists Wasterval.
“You have to find them. They’re like little trophies that people show off.”
Wasterval wants to document his neighborhood as it transforms, socialize with his neighbors, and have fun.
– Playful – It is also a way for him to distribute his largest works, typically 60 x 90 cm and 75 x 100 cm, which sell for $2,000 and $3,000 respectively.
“The idea is to keep doing it like forever,” he said of the hunts.
“It’s a marketing gimmick but it’s fun because it doesn’t look like it. I want it to stay that way.”
This time, Wasterval had chosen to paint the corner of popular neighborhood pizzeria Paulie Gee’s.
In a park, among children playing hide and seek, he hides the small painting under a flowerpot.
A few minutes later, Obid, a 27-year-old documentary filmmaker who lives a block away, arrives.
He searches frantically as more people begin to arrive, some on bicycles. Every few seconds they stop to check their phones for new Wasterval clues.
After about ten minutes, Obid screams and laughs as he finds the painting – his fifth in three years.
“It’s a piece of art that means a lot to you,” he says, noting that not only is it quirky, but it’s also “your home.”
Lisa Llanes, a 38-year-old graphic designer, recently won two hunts but this time was too late.
“These are such cute little works of art! ” she says.
Wasterval hopes to organize an exhibition with all the “minis”, as he calls them, loaned by the winners of the hunts.
He also plans to expand the project to the rest of the city.
“People ask me to go to different neighborhoods. I’m going to expand the radius little by little,” he says.
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