Bright Words: My Life in Yellow

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Walking through the Lower East Side, it is impossible not to notice the yellow stickers inscribed with poetry. Stuck on walls, lampposts, mailboxes and other bits of urban clutter, the slaps read like scraps from a diary. Evocative, intimate, despairing, empowering, mysterious — they invite to feel and to think. My Life in Yellow is the story behind the words.

Global Journey

“Yellow has been my favorite color for as long as I can remember… to me, yellow equates to happiness.” The artist known as Yellow told me, as we sat in the comfort of her chic, tasteful, and graceful living room. 

'My Life in Yellow' began as a blog when she first moved to New York, designed to be a bright chronicle of Yellow’s life to stay in touch with friends. She left her home state of Pennsylvania in a low, so she moved to New York with big city dreams. Her style matured into poetry, as she traveled across the world, while life experience helped Yellow evolve as a person.

The trademark yellow sticker has its roots in three relationships: two friends and a lover. As Yellow planned a trip to India, a friend connected her with a Swede who had already been to the subcontinent. This Swede turned out to be Tags and Throws, a graffiti aficionado. He taught her the basics of street art etiquette. After India, Yellow planned a trip to Sweden to visit him, and there, Tags introduced her to All You See is Crime in the City. Yellow and Crime hit it off instantly.

“She’s my angel,” Yellow joked, affectionately. The two became close, and Yellow’s apartment became Crime’s base when she visited New York. In 2016, Crime came by the big city. At the time, Yellow was in romance gone stale. As she put it, “he was a good guy, just not good for me.” Yellow was feeling blue about what to do, wanting to break-up, but afraid to hurt him. Crime offered her a priority mail slip. And so, on this postal-prototype of what would become her yellow calling card, she wrote; “Tell Him How You Feel.”

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Power in Words

“I was always writing cheesy poetry.” Yellow said with a self-deprecating smile. While some of her stickers, she admits, can be a little girly, her ability to channel raw emotion into refined poetry has stopped people dead in their tracks. Two weeks after posting the poetic mail sticker, someone posted it to instagram - and tagged My Life in Yellow. She realized the power of words. “I thought, this feels right.”

This moment charged her with purpose. My Life in Yellow’s incarnation on Insta developed naturally. Yellow’s handwriting is graceful, and at first she would post pictures of her work written on torn pages of a notebook, but the streets called for action. The popular postage style sticker didn’t properly convey what she wanted to express. Instead, Yellow discovered eggshell stickers, sold in her favorite color. August 2016, Yellow slapped up the first of her crafted stickers. Soon, it was discovered and reposted across social media. In a sense, it felt like a validation of her work (she joked the first feeling was all ego), but she recognized the power her words could inspire.

In the beginning, she was slap-happy, living in her own world, her stickers a therapy to heartbreak. But before she knew it, her renown grew, and she was swept up into the New York street art scene and was soon in her first show. SacSix invited her to contribute pieces to his Free Bacon show at Benson’s. Yellow was nervous; she didn’t see herself as an artist. Nonetheless, she sent in five pieces. Four were canvases, designed to resemble her stickers, with the unmistakable black sharpie gliding across yellow. The last was done in the original notebook style. Several pieces sold.

As her career developed, Yellow found her voice. She's cultivated her style, an elegant mystique, graceful and refined sophistications on love and loss. Following a hard break-up, she decided to try the stage, after being invited to a spoken word reading. “I was like, I’m single, I’m sad… so I said fuck it, I’m going.”

Her first set was short, but poignant. Yellow read a 5-minute poem about her father, and his death as a consequence of drug abuse. The reading was cathartic.

Since then, these shows have been a way of testing material, exploring new emotional depths. Each feature is centered around a different theme, whether it be pain, or family. Though she’s been around the New York poetry circuit, she’s most at home at Inspired Word, where she began, and where she set out to do her most adventurous set yet.

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Titillating Tongues

Heavy red drapes painted the backdrop for the speak-easy stage. Stepping through a scarlet telephone booth, the crowd entered the Hell Phone. The evening’s event: Titillating Tongues - Erotic Poetry and Prose.

She walked up to the stage, dressed in a low-cut cherry-red shirt. Cheers from the crowd followed her, as she took command of the microphone. Some of her fans had never seen the anonymous woman behind the Instagram account. My Life in Yellow eased the crowd with soothing tones, as she prepared to please them with words. The first feature of the night, she cooed some poetic foreplay.

Reciting the words, Yellow delivered 6 poems. Taking note from the erotica of Anaïs Nin, she favored subtlety over smut, her words crafted to tease. She whispered words of desire, thundered on the impulse of temptation. Her voice a conduit to the power of words. Playful, sensual, seductive — she let the words drip over her audience. By the time she finished the set, she had the crowd roaring. Yellow walked off the stage with a confident strut.

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Past Pain, Bright Future

Yellow talked to me about her past and future, how they’ve shaped her, both as a person and as an artist. She laughed, as she reflected, “I write about love so much… It’s the one thing that I really want, but it’s also the thing I’m terrified of.”

This fear comes from past pain. Before New York, Yellow was married for five years, living the quiet, domestic life. At 25, she threw herself headlong into love. “I went to college, got my bachelors in business, met a guy, dated for a few year’s... there was no reason to break up, so we got married.”

However, Yellow was unhappy, unfulfilled. She was a good girl, who did what people expected of her, but now she was lost. “In my immaturity, I blamed him.”

Yellow had an affair. This illicit romance was about finding and exploring something new — she played mistress to her soulmate, a man she felt connected to on a higher level, but not her husband. She isn’t proud of it, but Yellow is open about her cheating, and subsequent divorce. Some things need to happen, to help us grow. And in her own growth, she hopes to help others.

In a small cafe, an acquaintance confessed to Yellow that she was considering an affair. Yellow listened to her reasons, her feelings. They spoke without judgment. Yellow explained her own liaison, and the lessons she learned. Yellow cautioned against the fiery allure of adultery. If you can’t appreciate what you have, it’s better to break things off clean.

Later, the girl married her boyfriend, and reached out to Yellow to thank her, for talking her out of cheating. In a bittersweet tone, she meditated on the past. "In that moment I was grateful I had the affair. I was sad that I hurt people. But I was grateful I could help others.”

This clarity is one of the creative forces that Yellow channels into her art. "That’s what the stickers do for me, they emulate that moment — it makes people not feel alone, like someone understands, makes them think about things they may be trying to avoid.”

When we spoke, Yellow was wistful, reminiscing about her artistic journey. Her heart is buried in her words -- as one poem summarized, inscribed with words of reflection and resolution:

2016: Loss & Clarity
2017: Struggle & Strength
2018: Vulnerability & Love
— My Life In Yellow

Photo courtesy of My Life in Yellow

Art, InterviewsT.K. MillsComment