On a wet and rainy day in 2012, a hit-and-run accident left artist David Anasagasti, a.k.a. Ahol Sniffs Glue, gravely injured on the side of the road. It proved to be a blessing in disguise.
Incapacitated, drenched and helpless on Biscayne Boulevard, he realized he was far from satisfied with his life. He ended up in the hospital. A friend then introduced him to art dealer Gregg Shienbaum, who offered him space at his gallery in Wynwood for free, hoping to help him pay his medical bills.
“The idea of the gallery in Wynwood was to try and help local artists whenever I could,” Shienbaum said. “He was the first guy I worked with and he was in need at the time. People were talking about him, I looked at his art online and I liked it, so I said, ‘Let’s try it.”
Anasagasti took advantage of this opportunity and turned his life around.
“Life was crazy, life was rough,” he said. “My mom died early. When you gotta pay your own bills and pay your rent and do all this stuff, it’s a different type of way of doing sh*t.”
Multiple art pieces by Anasagasti sold during the five weeks of the show. Among them, the remains of the motorcycle from his accident, which is now on display at a bar in Naples.
His trademark is a multitude of eyeballs staring outwards from the canvas. His work is displayed all over Miami, in a gallery in New York and in murals in Denver and San Juan.
Today, the 41-year-old Hialeah native’s artwork sells for as much as $10,000. He’s gone from living in a warehouse in Kendall to owning a condo in Brickell.
His art style may offend viewers and art critics, he said recently during a visit to FIU’s Ratcliffe incubator, where he is an artist-in-residence.
“They don’t gotta like my sh*t, but they’re gonna know it,” he said.
His recent exhibit “On Location” at the Confidante Hotel in South Beach, in partnership with the Museum of Graffiti, attracted hundreds of visitors. Its paintings display different variations of his trademark, some versions clear and symmetrical and others with paint bleeding down to the bottom of the canvas.
“Everyone looks for [Ahol’s] type of work,” said Allison Freidin, co-founder of the museum. “I’ve sold it to young collectors who are starting their collection at 25-years old, all the way up to older couples who have grandchildren.”
His creativity derives from his experiences in Miami, and his art represents the city unapologetically.
Anasagasti’s path to success has been turbulent but cathartic.
Working at Publix as a bagger and doing customer service for a porno company didn’t compare to the satisfaction he has felt through graffiti. He learned to use the world as his canvas.
“Graffiti put a fire under me,” he says.
Miami art dealer Alfredo Zayden owns and sells most of Ahol’s work at his gallery, Frame Art in Brickell.
“This guy is amazing,” he says. “He is the next Warhol.”
Added Freidin about Ahol’s work, “I think he’s an important figure in the Miami street art scene because he has been able to take his work out of just painting in the streets.”
Ahol says he is inspired by riding his bike around the city where he lives. “Every color I see on the streets, the foliage, and the shapes of the buildings in the skyline all travel directly from my mind onto the canvas when I make a painting,” he says.
On December 2, Anasagasti is having an opening night for “Geographies of Trash: Art Cycling with Ahol,” a show in collaboration with Florida International University at the Paramount Miami Worldcenter.
“The reality is, now, I’ve realized the power and the strength of the platform that I built,” he says. “I use it to inspire people. Let me hype them up. How could I not give it my all?”