Photo Essays

A Street Artist’s Whimsical Interventions Turn the City into a Playground

The New York-based street artist Tom Bob has a knack for bringing mundane bits of the cityscape to cartoonish life.

Monkey meters in New Bedford, Massachusetts (all images from Tom Bob’s Instagram and used with permission)

Animism — the belief that all creatures and objects are imbued with spirit — is pre-pagan, mythical, and, if translated into cartoons, endearing. Consider the charm, at once magical and comforting, of the singing flowers from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, the stars of Władysław Starewicz’s stop- motion films (dead insects, toy puppies), and even Clippy, the divisive and now-defunct Microsoft Office assistant — say what you will, but he was bright-eyed and wholesome, and always knew when I was writing a letter.

Similarly, the street art of Tom Bob animates pockets of the urban landscape in New York City, New Bedford, Massachusetts, and other locales, making even a city’s most innocuous objects seem alive and adorable. Storm drains become Oreos; a drainpipe becomes the trunk of a smiling elephant; a barred window becomes an open birdcage; an electrical outlet becomes a man brushing his giant teeth. Even when he isn’t transforming innocuous street items into something far cuter and more vibrant, the results are sublime, from an alien mural on a beach, for example, to the kissy-faced, neon-hued whales on the roof of two New Bedford buildings. The effect is to evoke a delightful urban playground that, admittedly, is very Instagram-friendly, but, more importantly, otherworldly.

New Bedford, Massachusetts.

The New York-based artist’s work is very much in the spirit of the French street artist OakOak, who also brings the city to life, or the Québecois artist Roadsworth, who turns it into a playground. It also evokes animator Sean Charmatz’s “Secret World of Stuff,” in which everyday objects (leaves, soup dumplings, ice cubes, bike racks, hanging planters) are animated laughing, crying, melting, or hugging each other. It’s all the stuff of childhood imagination, but if you know how and where to look, little wonders are hidden everywhere.

h/t Bored Panda

An elephant drainpipe in New Bedford, Massachusetts
Electrical outlet lobsters in New Bedford, Massachusetts
Ringo Starr
The rooftop of two Elm Street buildings in New Bedford, Massachusetts
A storm drain in Brooklyn, New York City
A “snake in the grass” in New York City
Traffic cone stencil art in New York City
Buttonwood Park, New Bedford, Massachusetts
A freed blackbird, in the spirit of Maya Angelou, in New Bedford, Massachusetts

View more of Tom Bob’s work on his Instagram.

comments (0)