This morning I woke up to very sad news, a New York street artist who I had the pleasure to work with and call my friend passed away. His name was Jef Campion, better known to the world as, Army of One. I first met Army of One at the July, 2010 event at Electric Windows in upstate New York but I knew him already by his iconic images of Diane Arbus‘ “Grenade Boy” and “The Bride of War”. Soon after he and I met up at the Bowery building to put in some work and from that night on we were friends. I felt his good energy right away, a relaxed and passionate human being and we shared a mutual respect for one another. He appreciated my theme of ‘family’ and I admired his message to ‘make art, not war’.
In Art Basel 2011 we both participated in the Fountain Art Fair and in the ‘Del Toro’ painted shoe event. I remember that Jef drove a commercial van down from NY to Miami, transporting his huge and heavy mosaic tiled pieces because he really loved that fine art side of him and was very proud to display them.
In 2012 and because of Jef’s mentioning of my name, I got to paint a mural on The Strand Book Store and collaborated together on a piece for the ‘XCIA’s Street Art Project’ book. It was during this time when he began to dip into red enamel paint and make his mark with his red stained hand. We participated in shows together at The Dorian Grey and Hendershot Gallery and in October, in the ‘MVP Allstar Lineup’ mural event in the Bronx. There he mounted his elaborate framed ‘Bride of War’ painting on wood onto the wall. It was a terrific approach to frame street art and literally take the idea of fine art on walls to create an outdoor gallery.
At Art Basel 2012, we painted murals next to each other. When we met there it was the customary greeting between us with big hugs and smiles. When back in New York, Jef created a piece to honor Richard Hambelton, aka, “The Shadow” at the Woodward Gallery. He was very proud to exhibit this work as R. Hambelton was an artist he saw in the NYC streets back in the 1980’s. The Shadow was one of his street art idols. In the winter-spring of 2013, Jef and I were a part of the White Rabbit Show, ‘Street Stylz’…unfortunately, that would be the last time we would work together.
Jef Campion was a generous, passionate person with his message/art and moreover, as a human being. He was a great humanitarian, always giving his time and donating his art to charities, especially his favorite, The Ronald McDonald House. We shared similar visions and our connection regarding our professions to help others. He said that my message of family is what drew him in as he explained that his mom, whom he loved dearly and passed away some time ago and he had no father growing up.
To wake up to this terrible news of his untimely passing brought tears down my face and sadness to my heart. I am fortunate to have known him and was honored to have worked with him. Thank you Jef, for the great memories and the conversations we had…you were truly an Army of One. Rest in peace, brother, thank you for enriching us with your art and literally changing the face of New York, you will be greatly missed by many.