Sticker shock 

The couple that bombs together stays together

Derek Fridman and Heather Alexander are refugees from the Left Coast who met at the Los Angeles Internet consulting company Razorfish. When that company's profits went South, so did Heather and Derek, who now make Atlanta their home.

The husband-and-wife team debuted their own street art-centered design company, UrbanMedium, in 2002 and have since gained national exposure. The New York Times featured UrbanMedium in an article in September on the sticker-art phenomenon. And their stylized, photo-derived images of Vargas-y pinups, Bush and Kerry have cropped up in urban locales as far flung as Japan and China. Chetrooper is perhaps their most famous graphic work -- a hybrid of the hunky Argentinean revolutionary and the Star Wars storm troopers -- and the duo's shrewd commentary on the revolutionary-chic that has impressionable youth buying T-shirts sporting Che without fully grasping the politics.

UrbanMedium's elevated street culture profile can be partly attributed to a great graphic sense, a "two tastes that taste great together" combination of Derek's illustration superpowers and Heather's art and design book learnin'.

The artists laid down some of their yin/yang methodology from a cozy perch on a retro sofa at Cabbagetown's YoYo Boutique, where UrbanMedium toys, shirts, infant sleepers and original artworks are on display (and for sale) through Jan. 1.

Age? Both 29

Neighborhood? East Atlanta

Born? Heather: Pataskala, Ohio. Derek: San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Visual arts education? Heather: bachelor of fine arts at Carnegie Mellon; communication design major, art and photo minor. Derek: Two years at the Art Institute of Atlanta.

Why did you come back to Atlanta?

Derek: I kind of got tired of L.A. We had really worked our asses off for many, many years out there and we were kind of like, "been there, done that," but it's time to move on.

Heather: People were stagnant. And we had a lot of friends that were very talented, and they were big talkers, but not doers. I've always believed in that saying, "If you live in New York, leave New York before it makes you hard, and leave L.A. before it makes you soft." And I felt like we were reaching that point.

Can you be a graffiti artist in a driving-city? Heather: Oh, yeah. Derek: Absolutely. I feel more energized here than I was in L.A. There isn't a mass of people lining up to do the same thing. Heather: And also, we don't have distractions here.

Day job? Heather: Freelance art director primarily for clients in L.A. and NYC. Derek: Creative director, Atlanta web company.

Favorite artist? Heather: Andy Warhol. Derek: Comic book artists Todd McFarlane and Jack Kirby.

Most popular bomb hit? Little Five Points.

Origin of Chetrooper? Derek: You can get very deep into it, but at the end of the day, it was never meant to be this deep thinking thing. It was more jamming this sort of pop icon Star Wars figure that a lot of us grew up with and then taking an image of this Che revolutionary and sticking the two together.

Where's the most obscure place people have stuck Chetrooper? Heather: Every time I send stickers to Australia, I think, "How do they know about us?"

Sticker etiquette? Heather: The etiquette's basically, you don't tag or sticker over something good. Be respectful of what someone else has put down.

Favorite cartoon character? Derek: Spider-Man. It was just so cool to see something that was human, but skewed. Heather: Cartman. I'm more about what they say than how they're drawn.

Favorite movie of all time? Derek: The Empire Strikes Back. Heather: Reservoir Dogs.

Favorite CD of all time? Derek: John Williams' score to The Empire Strikes Back. Heather: Run DMC Raising Hell. It was a gift from my father when I was in the sixth or seventh grade.

Guilty pleasure? Both: Reality TV.

Who's your hero? Derek: I kind of lost faith in a lot of heroes. Heather: Charles and Ray Eames. They were a married couple and amazing designers.

If you won the lottery tomorrow ...? Derek: Pay off our house. Heather: Probably dump a lot of it into UrbanMedium. Just kind of spread the message more.

Dream for UrbanMedium? Derek: I'd love to open a store or gallery in New York, L.A., Japan, where we could showcase our stuff and give other artists the chance to showcase their stuff.

Artiness: Nature or nurture? Heather: Nurture. Derek: Nature.

Felicia.feaster@creativeloafing.com


You can see UrbanMedium's work through Jan. 1 at YoYo Boutique, 118-A Carroll St. 404-389-0912.

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