Luigi Savino and I have known each other for only about a year. But it's been an extremely active year and we've somehow gotten to know each other very well in that small amount of time. Perhaps working 40hrs a week with someone will do that. We honestly clicked from the second we met. After all, we're both East Coast natives living in the Bay and we both went to art schools in major Northeast cities. For some reason, though, if I may level with you, I initially felt worried about anyone named Savino. This might have been because I was deep into "The Wire" for the 9th time in my life, and there is/was a bad dude named Savino in that show. And I just thought, "I don't know about anyone named Savino." haha. Needless to say, I was immediately struck by how genuinely nice Luigi is.
Anyway, Luigi, besides being a great friend and a killer barista, is an incredible artist. Outside of my roasting and bagging the coffee for BTC, Luigi has had a major role in all things BTC. The BTCC&CQ is very much a real thing because of Luigi and he rallied me into realizing that art and coffee doesn't need to be something that only happens in a brick and mortar space; that one can do the things one want in big ways and small ways. That creativity and philosophy can be fractalized and applied in many ways and with many different methods. I think that his convictions in this realm obviously stem from his time spent with both Street Art and school.
BTC: Have you ever tagged a wall?
LS: Yeah definitely.
BTC: Which one?
LS: (mumbles something) For a while I thought street art was a great concept or a great idea. I loved this- and this is my whole concept- my whole idea was just like walking around a city, and like, everything that encompasses that experience was my art's impetus, from the walls to the people to the environment around you.
If you look at a city wall, you can almost chart the movement of the people on it from the graffiti to the people buffing out the graffiti to the people who are out of their minds on meth scratching things into the wall. It's a visual history. That artist Mark Bradford is somebody who totally gets that. So yeah, I thought that street art was this cool, really revelutionary idea that created this dialogue with this little inclusive group. But after a while, I was like getting tired of tagging up people's personal property or that an idea was getting lost in a million other people's tags, which is fine, I mean I love all the build up, but it wasn't for me. But I still love the concept of it and I totally love graffiti artists. They do work that... There's something to be said about an artist that goes out and does work that nobody else likes and no one else gets. I love the rules, the unspoken rules, and the history.
We kicked it over some hot dogs and beers in Oakland. He got the Mission Street: a bacon wrapped hot dog. A lil' more protein balanced and tempered by a little more cholesterol. Pleasure, and pain, if you will.
Born to two Italian immigrants, who first moved to NYC; my dear homie is from Orlando, Florida. Frankly, this makes Luigi a unique cat, already... you know, Orlando being a weird place and all. I was tempted to end this write-up right here and there- ya know, drop the mic, but let's dig a little further.
LS: My parent's immigrated to New York- straight off the boat- there was still a boat at the time- and then strangely decided to move Florida before they retired. It was strange. I guess at the time there weren't too many Italian restaurants in Orlando, Florida. So they moved to Florida.
I guess Florida's a weird place, looking back, I can chart my influences by like the urge to get out of Florida. I became interested in anything and everything outside of my surroundings. At the same time, a lot of things that influenced me were environmental factors: It's vast and flat, swampy; a good percentage of it is wet lands. It's a strange mix of people, too, heavily Hispanic, Southerners, New Englanders, and New Yorkers. It's a weird place. I definitely don't consider it the South. But there are Southern tendencies...
BTC: You're gonna hear a Southern accent every once in a while.
BTC: But not all the time... Florida is like the United States, inside of the United States.
LS: It's a microcosm of the entire United States, for sure.
BTC: People don't realize that, sometimes. ...The American Dream and Nightmare are both in Florida.
LS: (Laughing) In Florida! That's great. Yeah, that's awesome info for sure. So yeah, I guess my parents were chasing the American Dream in Florida.
BTC: Have you ever hung out with a Seminal Indian?
LS: (Laughing)...No. But it seems like every school mascot is an American Indian in Florida.
BTC: Sure, that's true everywhere. Have you ever hung out with a manatee? Have you ever touched one?
LS: No, never. 'Never even touched one before.
BTC: Have you ever run over a manatee in a power boat?
LS: (Laughing) In a pontoon boat! 'Killed many a manatee in pontoon boats.
BTC: It's not funny/ save the manatees dot org. (EDITOR'S NOTE: We joke... but BTC & LS do not condone animal cruelty and we both love wildlife conservation...)
LS: Yeah, no.... alligator attacks are a frequent thing that happen. There's something to be said about a place where prehistoric creatures wreak havoc every summer and like rip a 12 year old boy in half.
BTC: Why in the summer? Are they not available in the winter time?
LS: ...People aren't swimming.
BTC: It does get cold.
LS: It gets hot, man. You gotta cool off some how. ...The next thing you know...
BTC: But that's just in ponds, right?
LS: It's like a lake, or a creek, or a spring thing. Any of those.
BTC: That's the funny thing about swimming on the East Coast; rivers and lakes are dangerous. The ocean, at most, you're probably just gonna stung by a jelly fish. In California, it's the opposite. Nothing exists in a lake. But a shark will just kill you in the ocean out here.
LS: Yeah, that's true if you can find a lake that's not dried up. I guess Florida is just full of natural predators.
BTC: Yeah, it's like Australia.
LS: It's the Outback of the US.
Later we discussed art and art school.
LS: "I got a degree from art school. It was a communication design degree- which kind of sounds like bullshit... It kind of is.
I took a class in the fine arts department and it literally went down like this: We were standing in a circle and the professor was like, "Okay, everyone pick a spot on the floor, what do you see?"
"There's some hard wood, some dirt, some squiggles..."
"Okay that's your assignment."
And I knew that wasn't for me.
I decided to not be a fine artist, very consciously. I couldn't deal with going to school and having assignments that were completely for artists, for art, and for nothing else. A professor at my school once put it like this: the difference between a fine artist and an illustrator is that an illustrator always has something to say."
BTC: So, who would you say is the finest illustrator... wait no, 'not even gonna go there. Who is the number one artist of all time? After Luigi... ;-) ... who is a close runner up?
LS: Wait, like, alive? working?
LS: There's a lot of artist I like, but I guess artists I could pair my influences down to.. Let's say Barry McGee, who's an artist a aspire to. And Mark Bradford. Barry McGee is an artist I aspire to: a San Francisco street artist, sort of a legend of the Bay Area, Street Art World, gained popularity with all these other people; the Mission Street School. I don't know, his work is very direct. His simple colors, his brush works, a lot of characters...
BTC: Nice, fair enough. Alright, who's the number one artist who ever lived and is now dead?
(Pauses for 30 seconds)
LS: Stanley Kubrick.
BTC: STANLEY KUBRICK! I like it! You're crossing medium right there! I like it!
LS: Yeah, because Stanley Kubrick has the eye of a painter, he's got the sensibilities of a photographer, he's got the stories of a novelist... He pretty much encompasses every creative field or endeavor.
BTC: Kind of like how people used to believe opera was the highest form of art or expression. Because if you wrote a good opera, your music was on point, your story's on point, your choreography was on point...
LS: Your set design.
BTC: Yeah, all of that. It's like you're saying Kubrick was the modern day Verdi or something.
LS: Without a doubt.
BTC: Or maybe even Wagner. Without the anti-semetism. ...Well, with Kubrick, we don't know, right?
LS: No, we definitely know.
LS: He was making the Holocaust movie before Schindler's List and then abandoned it. But there's almost no one else with that sense of details. You could even say some of Kubrick's best details are completely unnoticed because they're that good, like they totally blend in, you don't think twice about it. That's the mark of a totally brilliant director. Things are so fluid that I forget that it's a staged event.
BTC: I think that's really awesome to be influenced by things that are outside of your specific concentration, like outside of your chosen medium.
LS: I mean, to be honest, I'm definitely always looking at visual art and I'm always inspired by it. But unfortunately I'm always viewing it in relation to my work and that doesn't really let me fully appreciate it as much as a film or an album or a book. And those things inspire me as much as an illustration, sometimes.
BTC: I hear that. Sometimes I think the things that influence me the most with coffee service come from experimental films these days. Seriously. I've been thinking a lot about competing again.The things I always want to do in competition are things I realize through avant-garde cinema. Checking out things outside of your medium can afford you some fresh new perspectives and let yourself be open to new ideas that you might not have considered otherwise.
LS: For sure.
To end our interview, we decided to put Luigi on the hottest seat known to the human race: F/M/K
BTC: Alright, the Lightning Round. F/M/K: San Francisco, Orlando, New York?
BTC: They're all pretty bad, right?
LS: Well, I mean, I would definitely kill Orlando.
BTC: Ooooo buuuuurn.
LS: ...And put it out of it's misery. Ummm... (Pauses) ...I would probably F New York, probably because it doesn't care anyway. I mean New York will just get on with it's life. Probably marry the Bay Area. It's progressive.
BTC: Yeah, you might hurt it's feelings otherwise. Okay. Last question. NYC, Orlando, Bay Area: Where are you eating?
LS: Definitely my mom's house in Orlando. In New York.... (pause) This is gonna be very Italian-centric. Probably gonna get a prosciutto mozzarella* sub from some deli. And from here I'm getting a burrito from El Matate, off of Bryant.
(*He effortlessly executed the accurate pronunciation of prosciutto and mozzarella.)