Alexi DeVilliers started his career with wanting to feed the homeless. The 48-year-old Tempe resident creates unique sculptures, such as robots and dogs, made out of cans formerly containing food used to cook meals for those in an elderly shelter. As an artist, he goes by Fishliptz, which he’s been devoted to full-time since November. His art is sold everywhere from Method Art Gallery in Scottsdale and SunDust Gallery & Art Center in Gilbert, to Ian Russell Gallery of Fine Art in Prescott, Arizona, Pop Gallery in Sante Fe and the Children’s Museum of Phoenix.
Find him on 4th St. and Roosevelt for every First Friday Artwalk in downtown Phoenix, and read more about how he merges his passion for creating art with helping others, below.
What brought you to Arizona?
I’m from Miami, and 9/11 brought my wife and I here around 13 years ago. My wife worked for the airlines, and I worked for a sprinkler company. After 9/11, they started to lay people off and gave her a severance package. We were going to come here to visit my friend John for his 40th birthday, and we said, “Let’s just move.”
I was born in New York, and my parents were born in Cuba. We moved to Florida when I was 5.
How did your interest in art evolved?
I made things in shop class in junior high school and learned how to use tools. In junior high, seventh grade, I took wood shop, then metal shop, then advanced metals all the way through high school.
How did you start your Fishliptz art?
It started from seeing people in the park and us having an abundance of food. Since I’m Cuban, I over-cook all the time, and there are always leftovers. They’d start to pile up, so we’d give them to the neighbors. The neighbors seemed to have enough, so we’d take all the extra meals to the park for the homeless, starting around five years ago.
One time, we thought we’d go over to American Discount Foods, an excellent place that is a dented food can place. We bought 40 little frozen meals for like $60. I said, “Next week, I’m going to cook some meals and see what I can do.” I cooked 80 meals from scratch with $60. We gave away a whole bunch to the people in Escalante Park and had all this left over, so we drove by Van Buren, near the mental institution and jail and passed out food. We did that for a couple of weeks.
Then, we drove all the way to 13th Avenue and saw all these old people standing in front of a building and started to give them food. We opened the door, and there were like 80 old people inside there, a shelter for people ages 55 and older only, called Justa Center. Ever since then, we’ve been taking food directly to them, for about the past four years. We make 100-120 meals for brunch every Saturday.
The name of my art, Fishliptz, originated from a whole bunch of guys who all used to hang out in high school. I needed a name back when I was using AOL, and I used Fishliptz, which just stuck.
What’s your typical meal you cook like?
Today, I cooked macaroni and cheese, with two types of cheese, Monterey jack and cheddar. A lot of the food comes in cans, so I got a three-bean salad and fruit. Some got mandarin oranges with pineapple, some got peaches, some got chocolate pudding. I make a lot of rice and beans, scalloped potatoes, chicken, chili, stews, dumplings – a lot of casserole-style foods, because it’s very hearty.
How did the art aspect of Fishliptz start?
Back in Miami, I used to make airplanes and helicopters and all sorts of things out of Budweiser boxes and glue guns for fun. I had all these leftover cans here and just started to slap things together, making little funny sculptures. Then, I started to put some of the cans together, and said, “Oh, look, a robot.” I put another couple cans together and said, “Oh, look, a cat. Oh, look, a dog. I can make a shark out of this if I open up the can.” I never threw the cans away and started using them for the artwork. I started creating the art around four years ago.
Why should people check out your art?
By you buying my art, the proceeds go directly to buying food for the elderly homeless in Phoenix. There’s no administration fees, there’s no advertising fees, I don’t even charge for the labor to cook the food. If you give to a popular charity, 40 percent may be administration fees, and the CEO may get $1.4 million a year with a $250,000 expense account and a private jet. I get a free meal on Saturday’s, and that’s what I cook for the people as my payment.
The art stands out because of the different things I make and where the cans come from. All these cans fed somebody who really needed something to eat. If you buy these empty cans, I’ll have money to buy food to feed somebody who really needs something to eat.