In a city like New York, there are few things that turn heads. But one man, artist Nate Hill, has become an expert of doing just that.
Hill’s latest project has him donning a dolphin mascot head and white tuxedo as he delivers $1 bags of “candy crack” — or packs of crushed up sugar cubes colored and flavored with snow-cone syrup — to anyone who calls in an order in Williamsburg and Greenpoint.
“It’s just the theater of the drug dealer,” Hill, 32, said.
Hill’s project is part of a performance art group called Club Animals, a secret society of mascots formed in early 2009. The group has performed several other acts, including the popular “Free Bouncy Rides,” where Hill, dressed in his dolphin costume, sits on a bench in the subway and offers strangers knee-bouncing rides.
The idea for Club Animals, Hill said, came after he and a friend were visiting an art gallery in Chelsea.
“It was so stuffy and pretentious, and we were joking that wouldn’t it be funny if we were in mascot costumes right now?” he said. “It started from wanting to be absurd in public.”
Hill, who acts as creative director of Club Animals, classifies his latest work as “regression art.” After he turned 30, he said, he felt the need to “rebel against aging.”
“I just wanted to start acting extremely young. I wanted to act like a child … but also keep the fun stuff about being an adult,” Hill said, “like being able to do drugs and have sex. That’s why the bouncy rides are somewhat sexual, and candy crack is about drugs.”
Hill said his work has become relatively well-known, thanks in part to the Nonsense NYC list, an e-mail newsletter that alerts subscribers to “weird events, strange happenings, unique parties, and senseless culture in New York City,” its Web site says.
“I realized there was a thing we could do without even going anywhere,” said one candy junkie, who preferred not to be named. “I thought it was fun to have strange people come to our house.”
But not everyone is amused. In August, Hill came under fire after the New York Daily News published an article about how his candy crack delivery service angered community activists.
“I hate anybody who jokes about drugs,” Ismael Torres, 75, president of the tenant association at the Borinquen Plaza in Williamsburg, told the Daily News. “I’ve seen too many cemeteries, too many hospitals, too many funeral parlors. The cops should stop this guy.”
But Hill said he wasn’t fazed by the criticism.
“Either you get it or you don’t,” he said. “Either it’s funny or it’s not.”
Hill’s entry into the art world began with “urban taxidermy,” he said, where he would sew together different animal parts to create large-scale pieces of art. Then he co-founded Club Animals. But what’s next, Hill said, is yet to be determined.
“I want to be a real artist. … I want to be transformative. I want to keep changing and reinvent myself … so I can prove to people I’m not just a spectacle,” Hill said. “I think that’s the mark of a real artist — if you have something new to say every year.”