Curtis Kulig opens the door to his Nolita loft in an oatmeal colored sweater, worn jeans and wool socks. It’s early on Sunday morning and as we are given the grand tour of his sprawling abode, we are re-introduced to “Love Me”. The tag which started as just that- graffiti, has evolved into a perfected marking now gracing not only abandoned warehouses and distressed walls, but canvases, restaurants, boutique hotels, editorial spreads and designer skateboard decks. The blue-eyed artist has parlayed his dripping red words into a respected art and has appeared in many galleries and group shows, in both his beloved New York as well as many metropolitan cities all over the world. His apartment is riddled with the phrase. Small canvases are strategically arranged on his large wooden desk, photographs by Kenneth Cappello with the sinuous red words are strewn along his white wood floors, and three-dimensional bronze sculptures are grandly arranged on shelves in his bedroom. In his rather austere apartment, the words add a certain charm and make the space distinctly his.
The art he produces is not at all confined to his own space. The streets and the buildings, which sit upon them, act as Curtis’s playground. Walk down any sidewalk in downtown Manhattan, and you are sure to find a sticker or wall bearing the “Love Me” phrase.
It becomes obvious rather quickly that Curtis is a creature of habit. His art is but one example of his ritualistic behavior-he has perfected his tag through relentless repetitiveness. Food he concedes is approached in the same manner. He sticks to what he knows, and what he knows is “good!” he explains. He enjoys familiarity and appreciates the relationships he has created with his neighborhood spots. He values the fact that he can go into any of his favorite restaurants and be able to order without even glancing at a menu. Food, like art has become second nature to Curtis. He can perfectly iterate “love me” and order brunch with his eyes closed.
When he wakes up, coffee is purchased from his neighborhood favorite-Cafe Select. He orders lattes. He admits to needing a coffee fix two times a day, and goes to the Café twice, daily. For sustenance he relies on his friend Serge Becker who is co owner of both of the artist’s favorite eateries-La Esquina and Miss Lily’s. “I eat like four times a days and I devour everything.” He jokes, so he is no stranger to his “spots”. “The waitresses here know me by name” he bashfully admits. Today we have been introduced to the colorful Miss Lily’s and over fresh coconut juices and traditional Jamaican brunch, we talk travel-the artist’s other love.
“Love Me” has taken Curtis to countries around the world. He has naturally developed restaurant favorites at each destination. He travels to Los Angeles a couple times a month. He first moved to the Sunny California coast from his native North Dakota when he was just 17. When he goes back, he takes advantage of the fresh fare and makes sure to visit all of his old favorites. “I definitely always make my way to Cobras and Matadors-its tapas and the menu changes all the time. It’s been around for like 10 years, its BYOB and one of my close close friends own it. I try to keep it in the family. Another place is M Café which is micro biotic. They make everything fresh.” Paris is another city that the artist loves frequenting. “I love French food. All the food in Paris is insane.” When in Asia, Curtis relies on his guides to show him the ropes. He trusts them, and in turn, they bring him to all of the local spots.
“Love Me” has made its mark on New York and is recognized as a result of consistency, and it is this very consistency that Curtis relies on when he eats. He finds his favorites and sticks to them.
Where Curtis “Loves” to eat around the world:
My friend Pietro’s moms house!