Interview with Harif Guzman

Gordon Glass
Published in
6 min readOct 6, 2022


Harif Guzman at work

Marcel Katz interviewed fine artist Harif Guzman on August 14th, 2022. They discussed the creative process, influences, skateboarding, brands and the Haculla NFT collection due to be released with the support of DigiArt in 2022. Here are some edited highlights from the exchange.


What first gave you the urge to create art?

Watching my friends painting. I sustained an injury in San Francisco. I just started drawing on my bunk bed — a stoned giraffe — I was DJ’ing reggae a lot. Then, seeing how that took off, I started painting. It was kind of a therapy almost. Then my friend, Big Foot — I’d go over to see him and he was already doing art.

What materials, tools, techniques did you first use?

When I first started to paint I was using a sponge for washing dishes. This girl who was teaching in San Francisco gave me my first brush. She’d come out and see us skate. When I first started I painted on a dry wall, on wood, anything you’d find on the street — those were my first materials.

Do your most creative times come in phases?

I think everyone goes through phases. I started projects that I want to get out of my head, that I want to accomplish, where I have a goal. But most of my painting comes from my personal life experience and whatever I’m feeling, my interpretation of my life, or what I see going on. I kind of break that down into little plays, little segments of my life.

Is creation a daily ritual or habit?

Creation happens all the way around the way of styling, how you brush your teeth, the way you put your clothes on. I’m always doing something creatively in addition to painting.

What most makes you want to create?

Mostly dreams actually. In a dream I saw the most beautiful pair of shoes and I was so pissed because I didn’t design them. And then, when I woke up, I realised I had designed them — which was really weird … No one ever made them — It was my dream.

How has how you make art changed?

What I feel subconsciously is transformed into my artwork, I let that take over and it makes use of all the techniques I’ve learned over the last 25 years. Right now I’m doing a show where all the things are in blue. There are a lot of beautiful moments, and then a lot of heartache. I’ve learned to enjoy the ride.


Ian Curtis or Jean-Michel Basquiat?

Both are the same. Because it’s the same frequency of creativity. Everything in life has frequencies. Fear or love are the only two emotions and everything else falls under those. Basquiat and Ian Curtis from Joy Division were both suicidal. Curtis had epilepsy and seizures. Basquiat had a heroin addiction problem. They both decided to take themselves out, and we’re aware of it. They both created a lot of great work.


Is skateboarding more than a way of getting around for you?

Of course — skating is my whole freakin’ constitution! It’s about repeating things that only make sense to yourself. You keep trying and hurt yourself, just for that one half a second of result that you get when you land your trick. So, what I took from skateboarding is that, without looking foolish, you’ll never get good. So it gave me that kind of courage to not really worry about the consequences. You know nothing’s gonna stop you. The feeling you get from that is so insane that it’s worth it.


What brands have you worked with, what did you enjoy most and why?

I really enjoyed working with Volcom because they taught me and 55DSL was the first people that gave me a chance. I had a really close relationship with Ally Hilfiger and Tommy Hilfiger, and they opened up the fashion world to me. And then dating certain people opened up the couture fashion world.

How did Haculla designer streetwear come about?

I started silk-screening in New York and started to become really good at it. My father worked in offset printing, so it came natural to me. I produced my first Haculla shirts when I became Haculla and I sold them at DQM (Dave’s Quality Meat) on Third Street, Bowery. Later Jon Koon of Tykoon Brand Holdings opened a store below me in New York’s SoHo. We became friendly. He invited me to make a jacket for Young Jeezy for MAGIC in Las Vegas where it was an instant hit. They invited me to do my own capsule collection and the rest is history.


What is it about Bram Stoker’s Dracula that you find compelling?

I think the most important thing that I find compelling about Bram Stoker’s Dracula is that it’s a love story. So it wasn’t about the Count wanting to be evil. It wasn’t that he ever wanted to kill anyone. He is ready to renounce God because he is angry at God for taking his true love away when he was working for the church. Only she can free him from the darkness.

So I fell in love with that concept altogether. I’d lost my own love in San Francisco. I was in New York in a world full of craziness. How did it influence my art at the time? Haculla was born of frustration. I channeled that frustration into this character that I put all over the streets. And eventually I became the King of nightlife. I became that romantic character in Downtown Manhattan and also became that dark character with drugs and alcohol and all sorts of debauchery. That’s what I had to learn later to let go of.

In the film the Count says, “I too shall love again”. He loved again and then his true love reincarnated and freed him from darkness. How can you not fall in love with that? Everybody wants to find that true love right?


What will this NFT collection consist of?

The collection represents versions of me — the cute (Hello Kitty) side of me, the non-judgmental, more feminine side (anybody can do whatever they want with their sexuality!), and the manly pirate side — the raw Haculla “chop your fucking head off” side. The ghost character — he flits around like a jellyfish from place to place, from the hood, to the rich spots, to the boat, to the plane, always on the move. You never know where he’s going to turn up… They’re all inside me.


What charity do you aim to support with this drop and why?

I want to support the Harold Hunter foundation. I already donated money to foster care. These kids that never felt wanted, when they reach 17 and get kicked out of foster care, have nowhere to develop. Then they separate the kids, brothers from sisters! It’s the worst. Those ages are so crucial — 1 through 10 years — as the trauma you suffer at those ages lasts a whole lifetime and causes you to cause trauma to other people, so it’s a chain of trauma… I’m gonna do everything I can to help.


Is there something outstanding on your ‘to do’ list?

I want to get the Academy Award for Best Script and to dedicate the film to Harold Hunter. And, I’d also like to do something in food, like start a healthy soup spot. And to leave a school that is free of charge for talented emerging artists.

Thanks to Marcel and Harif for recording the exchange above.

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