There’s something about Mary

Mary mural at Crave Cafe

Every looked up when waiting for a short black or flat white at the Crave counter and wondered about Mary? She is an epic work of art and it’s a fitting time of year to give her a shout out and to acknowledge the man who brought her to life, artist Owen Dippie.

Dippie wielded his spray can to create some of Morningside’s recognisable street murals. These days he’s a citizen of the world and quite likely to be putting paint on walls in places as diverse as New York, Tauranga and Los Angeles.

Proudly hailing from Kawerau, Owen has painted icons like Albert Einstein, Notorious B.I.G, Sir Ed, Nelson Mandela, and Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Many kiwis may not quite grasp his international status. He created a Biggie mural at Queen's legendary graffiti spot 5 Pointz (and got married on its roof) before it closed.

Owen has been creating his building-sized realist portraiture on streets in New Zealand and New York for over a decade. His first solo exhibition state-side even saw one of his works named Best Mural 2015 by The Huffington Post.

His inspiration? Well, Pablo Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” This is one of Dippie’s favourite quotes, and sounds like a life mantra.

At Kawerau Primary School, his maths book became a sketchbook. His science book became a sketchbook. His folks could read the writing (or rather painting) on the wall so conceded and signed him up for painting classes after school with local artist Edward Hunia.

By 5th Form (that’s year 11 youngsters), he was essentially a full-time artist as the teachers of his other subjects gave up trying to stop him from drawing in his exercise books.

“It's no exaggeration to say that my art teacher, Mike Linklater, changed my life. He introduced me to the art of Keith Haring and Jean Michel Basquiat. It was like he flicked a switch in my head. Thanks to him, I decided to take art seriously,” Dippie acknowledged in a recent interview.

Despite international accolades, co-labs with the All Blacks and solo gallery shows, Dippie still isn’t comfortable with notoriety. "I'm not big on crowds and painting in front of them kinda makes me feel like a monkey on show, but I enjoy walking by and listening to people's responses to the work. A lot of people become infatuated with the person behind the art, but I am quite a shy person. I was quite a shy kid, but I've found myself getting more shy as I grow older. I like to let the art speak for itself. And for me.”

So what does Owen’s art at Crave say? Mary Christmas!

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