It only took one moment of frustration to give André Trenier a moment of clarity.
Three years ago, the Bronx artist — known for his mural creations in front of places like Yankee Stadium — was working on a portrait of his friend and his friend’s son.
At the time, Trenier felt “more like a copying machine than an artist” when it came to his artistic process. He became so irritated right in the middle of it all that he kicked over a bucket of paint.
But instead of stopping to clean it up, Trenier continued working with that same paint.
“I started kind of splattering that and just rolled over what I had started and scribbled a bunch of stuff, one of which was, ‘Don’t let life get in the way of your art,’” he said. “And then for the next year and a half, I proceeded to then add something to it every day.”
In fact, Trenier spent about a half hour each day as sort of a warm-up to whatever he was going to do for the rest of those daylight hours.
“It was the first piece that I painted that I didn’t know where it was going,” he said.
When he looks back on that transformative moment, Trenier thinks it’s what he needed in order to get “back to the enjoyment of the (artistic) process again.”
Now, that piece, appropriately titled “Don’t Let Life Get in the Way of Your Art,” is one of many on display at the Bronx Terminal Market’s Pop-Up Experience, a public space for local Bronx artists to exhibit and share their work, at its 610 Exterior St., location. Trenier’s work is on display through Sept. 14.
While Trenier is known for his mural work across the borough and in Washington Heights, he also creates portraits. When prepping for this pop-up gallery, he decided to include a portrait he did of Mike Tyson as well as a portrait collection of Nina Simone.
“I went through a lot of the work that I had just trying to see which pieces I hadn’t shown,” Trenier said. “I didn’t want to show pieces that people that are familiar with my work had seen.”
At the pop-up gallery’s opening reception, Trenier placed a blank canvas in the space as a way to invite people to sign it when they attended. But when things didn’t go according to plan that day and he was unable to secure the markers he needed for the canvas, a friend of his eventually drew something on it and has watched it grow since then.
“I’ve been just adding to it every day and letting it evolve,” he said.
Trenier has also used his pop-up space to interview people and create portraits on the spot.
“I’ve been kind of treating it as my studio and allowing the art to happen in front of people,” he said.
Trenier thinks it’s important to have people experience art-making live, so when they eventually visit other art space, they can “look at the work with a different idea of the person that made it.”
“A lot of times, I think there’s a disconnect between people and the arts in general, and I think it’s based on how those arts are introduced to them,” Trenier said. “And I think that most people think of the visual arts as something that’s not necessarily tangible or close to their life. It’s something they might see at a museum, but it generally is at a distance.”
Trenier’s pop-up gallery has been at the Bronx Terminal Market since July 25, and his favorite part has been interacting with families who didn’t expect to go shopping and stumble upon an art gallery.
One thing Trenier wishes he had a chance to do while at the space was formally teach kids about art, especially since he’s been able to do his work on the spot over the last few months.
“There’s always kind of a teaching component to what I do because I’m doing it in front of people,” he said, “so I’ve always been open to answering questions about my work in the process. I feel like that’s just a natural part of it.”
But if there’s anything he’s learned from this experience, it’s actually learning to make a living from his passion through the merchandise he sells of his work. Yet, Trenier still wants even that to mean something to those who experience his work.
“The idea is for people to connect with the imagery and then have different ways where they can kind of own a piece of that,” Trenier said, “as opposed to trying to cater to the price point and then not doing the type of work that I’m most happy doing.”
And although he sought out to make this gallery experience a chance to “show some of the diverse beauty of the Bronx” — and it eventually venturing outside of that goal — Trenier has no shame in just going with the flow now.
“I’m just kind of enjoying the process and enjoying the moment and not trying to force it into the box necessarily,” he said, “even though it was my box to start with.”