The man behind those koi stencils wants queer street art to make more of a splash

SF Weekly‘s cover story this week is all about Jeremy Novy, the koi stenciler:

Even people who don’t know his name know his aquatic vertebrates — colorful creatures that can be found on sidewalks across San Francisco, most prominently at Market and Laguna streets, where scores of the fish swirl outside the Orbit Room. In Novy’s studio, though, the animals are crowded out by representations of people. Men, mostly. Queer men like the drag queen with the yellow beehive and bright red panties, and the young wrestlers grabbing each other’s flesh. Then there’s the stencil of a big pink erect phallus.

“That’s my cock,” Novy says matter-of-factly.

The stylized erection has appeared on walls inside select San Francisco venues like the Stud, a gay South of Market bar at Ninth and Harrison streets, but Novy has a greater mission: to make queer-oriented street art and artists more visible. The mainstream, as it were.

Read on.

24 thoughts on “The man behind those koi stencils wants queer street art to make more of a splash”

  1. YES! The mystery is finally solved!

    First time I saw his Koi stencils was in front of these Couple art house on Divisadero St between O’farrel st & Ellis st.(right next door to kpoo FM).

    I’m happy that no one has tried to defile his work, because they are really beautiful Koi.

  2. The guy’s Koi are kinda cute. The guy is a douche, however. Such is the trend with street art. No matter how interesting the art, the artist is usually a douche.

  3. granted, this guy has alot of fish in the city, but i find it rather cheap to use your sexuallity as a way to promote your art. are we now at the point where art has a value not because of its message or how you perceive it, but because the guy way gay ? thats just a reflection of the fact that all American life now is just for show.

    second, as a street artist, you need to pay your dues, and frakly, most of the street art community will give this guys “mad props, for getting up” but will not respect him as a real street artist, because, hey.. how hard or bold is it to carry a 8×11 stencil drop it on the ground.. spray 3 times and walk away ? not much compared to some other street artist, doing freehand characters, or high rooftop lettering. frankly, this guys needs a 30 foot long fish piece to be taken somewhat seriously lol

    1. I concur, re: it being tacky to use your sexual preference to promote your art… But, on the bright side, he has far more talent than the vast majority of crappy taggers that plague this city.

  4. I can’t believe how nice everyone was to this guy on MM – he’s an obvious hack with no coherent message.

    “That’s my cock,” Novy says matter-of-factly, pointing at his leather tie. “I don’t need it anymore.”

  5. To all you bashers commenting on here….Just because he is gay does not mean you need to bash him. He is an amazing guy who I know personally and deserves to express himself with his amazing talent.

  6. I spent 3 months traveling china studying ancient and contemporary art. I wanted to bring something back from this experience and I found the koi fish to be everywhere in china. The koi fish is a fish of symbolizes good fortune, prosperity, riches, love and friendship. According to Japanese legend if a koi succeeded in climbing the falls at a point called Dragon Gate on the Yellow River it would be transformed into a dragon. I try and place the koi fish with a feng shui feel. The number, the colors, or the way they swim next to one another all have a meaning and I try and include that when stenciling them on the streets. I also relate the koi to my birthmark being all koi fish have these birthmarks that make them different and unique to one another. They also are the colors of the San Francisco Giants so for that reason I will only do installations of the koi in the city of San Francisco.
    You can find the koi fish in over 100 different locations through out the city. They are in school yards, restaurants, dentist offices, bars, Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer Mansion in Milwaukee and even the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. They also can be found in back alleys or side streets covering up the old paint splatters and marks that are overlooked by the city’s street cleaning crews.

    *The Koi is a symbol in Chinese and Japanese legends of perseverance and strength of character or purpose. The Carp also represents wisdom, knowledge, longevity and loyalty.
    *Koi symbolize harmony, marital bliss and reproduction because they breed prolifically and sometimes swim in pairs.
    *Chinese legend says people placed messages in the bellies of Koi, which have came to symbolize communication with a distant friend or loved one.
    *Fish are among the auspicious signs engraved or printed on the soles of the “footprints of Buddha”, stone icons venerated in all Buddhist countries. These carp signify freedom from all restraints.

    1. Hey Jeremy,

      I live in Milwaukee and have noticed koi fish stencils around hip bar hang outs. I was wondering if this was your work. I really enjoy seeing them and their beauty. It makes me feel like I’m swimming in a tranquil pond; giving me the strength to persevere through life’s hardships.

      I want to write an article on you and your fish and would love to ask you more questions. Where can you be reached?? I think your koi fish have a lot to say for art and am glad to see you are becoming recognized.


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