Gisella Velasco and Toni Potenciano probably have a really cool origin story for their really cool Tumblr, “Fly Art,” which mashes hip hop lyrics with classic works of art. I spoke with Velasco by phone (she and Potenciano live in the Philippines) to get the background on the site.
“We were just bored,” said Velasco. “And we’re always on the internet.”
Oh, okay. That’s still cool, though! I also get bored and am always on the internet.
Velasco, 21, and Potenciano, 23, met in college at Ateneo De Manila University and started Fly Art (a play on “high art”) last December. Their inspirations: Modern Vampires of Art History (“it’s pretty much in the same vein as Fly Art, except it uses Vampire Weekend lyrics”), Carter Family Portraits, Swoosh Art. “We were surprised it hadn’t been on the internet yet.”
Soon after launching the Tumblr, the women made an Instagram account. “Prominent people in the Philippines started reposting” the images. About six weeks ago, Fly Art was featured on Tumblr’s homepage. Today, Fly art has over 43,000 Tumblr followers.
“For me and Toni, it’s a new way to appreciate art,” said Velasco. “Because I think that some people can view art as something that’s very highbrow, not very accessible… If we can help some people understand the painting a little bit better, then that’s good for us. And people think it’s funny. That’s why we really like to do it. Because art can be taken so seriously. There’s this stereotype of the art world being so highbrow and inaccessible, but the rap lyrics bring it down to earth, and makewe try to it a little more humorous.”
Mash-ups like these are perfect for internet-sharing. There are multiple points of entry (maybe you know art but not rap, or you know rap but not art, or both, or neither, but the juxtaposition of guttural language and old-timey paintings still resonates). The same high-low pairing has drawn people into the pop-lit Tumblr Slaughterhouse 90210 and some of The Toast’s “moments in art history” posts.
Both women are big fans of rap music, although they “try to do our part in educating ourselves, because Toni and I are more fans of the new-ish rap music, like Kanye West. We love Beyonce… It’s not even really limited to rap anymore. It’s R&B;, soul, hip hop in general.”
Next up for the Fly Art ladies: a collaboration with New York-based luxury t-shirt designer Betina Ocampo, due out in a few months.