Crosby Jack was painting murals on the fence behind King Dusko long before the art venue even existed. After a post-college trek from New York brought him to Charleston to teach street art classes at Redux Studios, Jack began to make graffiti, including behind the building that would become King Dusko.
“I can’t overstate how crucial that wall was for the development of me as an artist and in my transformation from tagging — narcissistic vandalism — to creating meaningful, live murals,” says Jack. When King Dusko owner singer McKenzie Eddy opened the storefront as an art and music venue, she embraced Crosby’s work and commissioned him to live paint during music shows. Jack would bike to King Dusko from West Ashley. Under the weight of a bag full of 40 cans of spray paint bulging out from all the pockets, cans of latex dangling off the handlebars, a paint roller extension pole sticking under his arm like a medieval jouster, and a gas mask flying in the wind, he’d make his way to the wall brainstorming new images as he went.
“In the collection were abstract monsters and faces, pagan images, nature, historical photographs, comic book characters, Bill Murray. It was a challenge each time to think how much more in-depth I could go, how I could push myself in terms of technical ability — can I use stencils on this one?” he says.
But his live work didn’t always garner a positive reception. “People would criticize me, and that was beautiful. Live art is more of a dialogue, and it was cool incorporating people into the product I was creating. It was a community space, and that made it surpass the ego,” says Jack.
Now that King Dusko has closed, Jack hopes the next tenant will appreciate his artwork and let the muralist’s tradition continue. With the next occupant still up in the air, Jack is focusing on embracing his history at the venue by reminiscing on his time, a time that gave him a stronger desire to expand his artistic horizons.
But even if the new tenant destroys his work, Jack will be creating canvasses based on his favorite murals at King Dusko and will sell them on his website crosbyjackart.com. And he plans to write a book entitled Holy City Burning exploring his rite of passage in the street art realm.
“In the graffiti world, you’re called a burner if you go over someone’s art; it’s an act of war. Usually you only do that if you can do something better, so each time you have to make yourself better. I have to transform myself, and then I can move forward with transforming the world around me,” says Jack.
Now working at Whole Foods in Greenville, Jack is taking the time to focus on nature, nurture his relationships, escape his comfort zone, and exchange recklessness for balance. “While I was in Charleston, I was 100 percent into my art. I was totally consumed by it and allowed it to consume me. Spray paint is such a chemical substance, and I took a step back from all that to take a breath and detox from all these chemicals that I’ve been ingesting for the sake of art,” Jack says. “You need to catch up to where you are before you begin moving forward.”