Jay Blaine’s Art Speaks a Mysterious Language on the Streets of Long Beach

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Jay Blaine in front of his symbol for Long Beach at the Holden Community Wall on Fourth Street. Photo by Matt Cohn. 

Perhaps you’ve caught a glimpse of Jay Blaine’s cryptic street art while walking in a part of Long Beach that’s off your beaten path.

“You have to be on an urban exploration adventure to find some of my pieces,” said Blaine, who also creates chalk, brush and spray-paint art on other, more highly visible surfaces all over town.

“I want to inspire imagination and mystery,” said Blaine, whose style is informed by graffiti, tropical flora and fauna, calligraphy, and his fascination with languages. Influenced by artists such as Keith Haring and L.A. muralist Retna, Blaine has created his own language and pattern system, which he calls “Plasma.”

“Plasma moves through the body,” said Blaine. “I want my art to move through the veins of the city.”

Blaine, 32, loves the unique, multi-cultural flavor of Long Beach.

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Jay Blaine’s art, currently on display at Iguana Kelley’s. Photo by Matt Cohn. 

“Every neighborhood in Long Beach has its own identity and I want to bring that out in each neighborhood,” he said. “It’s my goal to have a solo or collaborative mural in each neighborhood of the city.”

Blaine comes to Long Beach by way of Discovery Bay in northern California, where he began receiving artistic encouragement from his mother and grandmother at age four. A relentless margin-doodler throughout school, Blaine started developing his own style in college, doing freestyle art and automatic drawing with some like-minded record store co-workers. Music also influenced his artistic approach: “I see things in rhythm before I see colors,” said Blaine.

After moving to Long Beach three years ago, Blaine began painting symbols on his cardboard moving boxes, “trying out the calligraphy brush.” His first “Plasma glyphs” remembled Chinese and also incorporated Arabic dots.

Intent on creating his own language and pattern system, Blaine pared down his style, finding his most natural brush motions, studying Mayan pictographs, but also eliminating overt similarities to any particular ancient language. Random shapes at first, many of his symbols acquired specific meanings: Blaine has a glossary available for the definitions of over 200 of his Plasma glyphs.

In the last year, Blaine’s work has appeared on Fourth Street’s Holden Community Wall, at the Dia De Los Verdes Festival, a pop-up exhibition at Iguana Kelley’s on Anaheim Street (up through Sunday), various west and north side train yard walls, and, most recently, on the side wall of the S & A Market at 17th and Alamitos. Blaine also puts up work at Sunken City in San Pedro, a seaside concrete jungle that’s a mecca for local street and graffiti artists.

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A recently completed mural, THE BODY IS A TEMPLE, by Jay Blaine at 17th Street and Alamitos Avenue. Photo courtesy of Jay Blaine. 

“Graffiti art in general is a youth-driven thing,” said Blaine. “People who don’t have a voice. You could say it’s a symptom, but it’s also self-expression. It has pros and cons. It depends on the mindset.”

Blaine praises the Arts Council and Mayor Garcia for helping develop “a new open-mindedness toward art.”

“When I moved to Long Beach three years ago, it was one of the most conservative cities as far as allowing artists to express themselves,” Blaine said.

June’s Pow! Wow! Long Beach international mural event yielded some great street art, and also piqued interest in the local artists (like Blaine) behind the many great street pieces that were up in Long Beach before Pow! Wow!

Blaine is passionate about pushing culture forward in Long Beach.

“In order for an artist to bring extra notoriety to the city, and to make new cultural things happen, you have to make stand-alone statements that set you apart from the past, yet add to the city’s rich cultural history,” he said.

For more information on Jay Blaine’s art, visit his Instagram account or email him at [email protected] 

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Jay Blaine’s symbology adorned this shack at last October’s Dia De Los Verdes event at the Growing Experience Urban Farm. Photo by Matt Cohn. 

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