Justin Aversano

Artist Topanga resident Justin Aversano envisions a world where public art replaces advertising. He created SaveArtSpace in 2015 with co-founder Travis Rix. The endeavor began in Aversano’s Brooklyn loft and printmaking studio, where the two friends were dreaming up potential venues for public art during the annual Bushwick Open Studio, a major event for Brooklyn artists.

They went directly to billboard companies, fundraised, led artist outreach, and soon had a budding nonprofit organization. Their focus: transforming advertising space into public art by the local community. The New York Times recently included a SaveArtSpace billboard as one of ‘‘The Most Important Moments In Art in 2020”.

Justin recently relocated to Topanga. We met how many of us are meeting these days, virtually, on Instagram, and he has become a contributor to the Topanga New Times, but he is still actively engaged in the art world.

Was the artist or the canvas, so to speak, the impetus for SaveArtSpace?

In our neighborhood in Bushwick there were murals on every street. As the years went by, gentrification trickled in. Billboard companies began cutting deals with landlords, and without artist’s permission, began covering their murals with commercial advertisements. The very soul of the street was swept away by commerce. We wanted to take back the art space from the ad space.

What are some of the cities participating in this project and how can artists get involved in having their work showcased?

Since 2015, we have shown in most of the states in America, starting with places we knew; NY, CA, FL, CO, MI, DC, OR. The more shows we had the more artists we attracted from all over the country! There are billboards on almost every city street. If you are an artist who wants to be a part of our public art community and receive a billboard, submit at www.saveartspace.org/submit If you simply want to contribute please visit www.saveartspace.org/donate

I’ve observed that society’s advertisements reflect the times, our Narcissus’ reflection in the pond so to speak. It’s quite poignant that this year there is an emphasis in wanting to reflect art back to society, as opposed to inciting consumption. What kind of forethought goes into where these billboards are located?

I agree and that is why we started this organization; we wanted to share beauty, professional artists and everyday people alike. It is for everyone. Consider how many positive messages and works of art we could share if we owned every billboard in America. We are at a point in human civilization where we have a choice; consumerism or community. If we can change the behaviors of consumers with art, we can alter our path in global warming with global healing. Capitalism can still exist, but it must operate in a responsible, ethical, sustainable, and affordable way for all.

It’s important to Travis and I that we create opportunities we never had access to. Building ever-lasting friendships and networks of artists are the fun parts about our work. Witnessing the artists, and their peers, radiance and joy when they stand before their life-size work fuels our heart to keep going! Artists are chosen on many factors; proximity to the billboard, the curators decision, surrounding environment, what compliments, or reflects the work being shown. Our motto is that the “Art Will Lead The Way”.

In addition to this project you steward, you’re a portrait photographer, and recently published, ‘Twin Flames’ a collection of portraits of over 100 twins in 3 continents. Would you share with us a bit about your book?

From the flames the phoenix rises; I too rose from the fire of trauma from loss. Losing my fraternal twin sister in the womb was the prenatal disconnection.

This grave experience traumatized my cells to the point of phantom twin syndrome —the feeling that someone is there with you, but they are not there. My healing was guided by shamanic experiences, which led me to embark on this twin project to honor my sister; a chance to reconnect with my Twin Flame. The reason I am in Topanga today is because of Twin Flames. Through art and healing, I connected with another twin, Nicole Buffett, whom I have fallen in love with; and now live with. Her twin sister Erica, is our neighbor. To me, my book Twin Flames is a spiritual concept that seeks to identify the cosmic reflection of your soul. Whether it be another person whose star chart aligns with yours, or a fragment of yourself that you have lost and rediscovered through healing. I prefer the latter as my source of inspiration and symbolism for titling the project Twin Flames. Plus, the uncanny truth that my subjects are all Twins, I felt like it was a great title for what the work stands for; healing, community, love, honor, brotherhood, sisterhood, friendship, science, astrology and spirituality. www.justinaversano.com/twin-flames/book