Sneaker culture is huge here and abroad. Naturally, sneaker customization is popular among the more well-to-do. Customizing sneaks gives folks more of a sense of exclusivity, which counts for a lot in the sneaker world. However, where one person may see a hot set of sneakers, Gary Lockwood, better known as “Freehand Profit,” sees something else. An artist by trade, Freehand Profit (a DMV native, now working in Cali) sees ornate gas masks in every pair of sneakers he sees. A sneakerhead may cringe when they see him cut up a pair of pricey Jordans to make a mask, but it’s necessary for the vivid, visionary art that Freehand Profit produces.
On his official website, Freehand Profit says:
My first passion has always been art but Hip-Hop became my mistress. She first tempted me in grade school with Snoop Dogg’s ‘Doggystyle’, in middle school she introduced me to graffiti and emcees/rappers like Bone Thugs N Harmony and Busta Rhymes, in high school Method Man & Redman sealed my allegiance to the beat of Hip-Hop. In 2001, when I arrived at Corcoran College of Art & Design, I set my mind to exploring and expressing the visual languages of Hip-Hop beyond graffiti…
…But why the gas mask? Mask making is an ancient art form and I look to link our modern times to this ancient art. The gas mask is the mask of our times, it represents atrocities at war, civil unrest, environmental damnation and works both as a symbol of fear and of protection. It also tips its hat to the keepers of the graffiti flame who wore/wear respirators and masks to protect their lungs from their poisonous art of choice. The ties to Hip-Hop’s original art form deepen when we examine the language within graffiti- the act of painting renamed “bombing” solidified the warlike nature of the art form.
I don’t offer answers in my work, instead I seek to explore issues we face within the Hip-Hop community. Issues of identity, materialism and duality intertwine as the work reflects a world that is in love with objects but that also has a love for a culture & lifestyle. The masks embrace our guilty pleasure while reminding us there are much more important problems at hand. The sacrifice of the shoes I love for the sake of my art is essential.
If you were thinking about getting one for Halloween, forget about it. According to the site, “On average a mask takes about 6 weeks to create but he has created 3 masks in 6 days for a commercial, 5 masks in 2 weeks for an Art Basel show, or a single piece in 72 weeks while filming every step of a massive milestone piece.” If you’re in the market, a gas mask will run you $4,000.
Check out some of Freehand Profit’s masks below. Visit his official website (freehandprofit.com) and follow him on Instagram and Twitter at @freehandprofit.