In a cluttered but comfortable basement in his West Seattle home, Alexander Codd feels in his element. Posters, pieces of art and other cultural mementos line the cement walls of his sanctuary. Nothing feels out of place.
He is an artist, a painter, a designer, a print maker. He is many things and his work takes many influences.
From athletes like Marshawn Lynch, Randy Johnson, Kobe Bryant and Ichiro Suzuki, to musicians like Jim Morrison, Frank Ocean, Elton John and Nina Simone, and artists like Pablo Picasso, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Shepard Fairey — these are the people who inspire Alexander Codd, and these are people who inspire his art.
These icons and influences are worn on Codd’s sleeve as he often features them central to his many different pieces, and sometimes, they wear him on their sleeve — literally.
One example of this is a piece that recreates a famous photo of a young Babe Ruth, but instead of a Boston Red Sox jersey, he is sporting a jersey with Codd’s artist logo and the word “Apollo” written across his chest.
Apollo, and the marble-statue head logo that Codd has adopted, is a recurring symbol that he uses both in his work and for his brand. Codd, who studied to become a history teacher before committing to a career in art, decided on the logo after hearing a lecture about the Greek god Apollo, the deity of poetry, music and art.
Codd said he found the character and its symbol both fitting as a logo for his artist alter-ego of sorts as well as an image that could be made an iconic symbol, representative and recognizable to his brand as an artist.
His journey as an artist, and his fascination with cultural icons and heroes, has led him to meet many of his own.
In 2017, he designed and painted a pair of cleats for Seahawks wideout Doug Baldwin to be worn during the “My Cause, My Cleats” promotion, which allows NFL players to wear a pair of artistic cleats honoring a charitable organization or cause of their choice.
He remembers getting backstage passes to a Wiz Khalifa show just so he could give the Pittsburgh native a portrait he had made based on a famous picture of the musician. He said the artist accepted the portrait and thanked him for it, but Codd did not think much of it. It wasn’t until he saw a holiday Instagram post on Wiz Khalifa’s account, in which Codd’s piece was hung on the wall proudly next to the family Christmas tree. He felt tremendous pride and validation by this.
“It meant everything,” he said. “It was reassurance that I could do this.”
Codd said the subjects of his paintings are often people and moments that inspired him to take his own path as an artist — his heroes that helped him “sack up and take the leap” into being a full-time artist.
Renton athlete project
Recently a project that has been in the works for several years was unveiled by Codd and the Renton Municipal Arts Commission, which partnered with him to commission the piece. The mural that was unveiled at Liberty Park in the back of Giannini Stadium honors seven legendary Renton athletes.
The mural depicts Renton High School alum and Native American athlete Henry Moses; Renton High School alum and the eight overall pick in the 1965 NFL Draft, Clancy Williams; two-time Olympian and Renton High School alum, Aretha Hill; Lindbergh High School alum and MLB pitcher, David Riske; Pacific Northwest boxing legend Walter Wright; 30-year NCAA record holder in the 1600-yard relay and Renton High School alum Jerry Belur; and former NFL player and Hazen High School alum Frank Reed.
The large overhead mural uses black, gray and white tones to recreate historic photos of the athletes. Codd often uses photos in his work. He once used exacto knives to cut out stencils to help him spray paint the photos, but an expensive laser cutter helps him save a lot of time and aching hands by doing the stencil cutting for him.
Using photos as a base for his work allows him to remix and build off of the iconic people and moments in popular culture to make something that is unique. One piece that represents this idea is Codd’s piece honoring legendary hip-hop producer and artist J Dilla.
Detroit-born J Dilla revolutionized the use of the MPC sampler as an instrument. The MPC is a tool that allows sounds and moments from any vinyl record to be looped or chopped up and assigned to a pad that can be played by one’s fingers. J Dilla used it to reinvent old and obscure records from genres such as jazz, soul and funk. He took musical moments with their own sonic and emotional connotations and implemented them in his own track, reinventing and modernizing their sound with the use of his own sampled drums.
Codd’s piece honoring J Dilla uses a famous photo of the producer using his MPC to sample records for a track. Codd recreates this photo by using stencils to paint it in a gray-tone color scale. Then he painted in, just on the desk next to J Dilla’s MPC, a flower vase. It was not just any flower vase — it was the exact vase from Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” painting. The bold primary colors and signature broad strokes that were used by van Gogh pop in bright contrast and disposition to the grayscale J Dilla photo.
This painting, in a way, is a symbol of itself and what Codd does with his art. Much in the same way that J Dilla remixes and configures a song from the musical samples and moments that inspire emotion and creativity in him, Codd is doing the same with his art. Pulling together two different influences in an homage to both artists while also making a statement about what kind of artist he is himself.
Codd’s art and the brand he has built for himself after taking “the leap” into being a full-time artist have allowed him to do important things, like immortalizing Renton’s sports heroes, as well as allowing him to meet his own heroes.