It’s Much More than Street Art
Written by: Ryan Fu @fu_beatz
“People say graffiti is ugly, irresponsible and childish… but that’s only if it’s done properly.” - Banksy
You’ve seen it while driving around Los Angeles, a poster with a guy with glasses, a stencil marker in his hand sometimes looking at you or just writing a simple message about life but it’s thought provoking. Once you see the piece of street art, you keep thinking about the message like a song that you can’t get out of your head. If you’re wondering which street artists made the piece? It was probably Morley, contemporary graffiti artists, who uses paste prints to delivery his message. You can see him in the day time, putting up is paste prints all over the streets of L.A, trying to change people’s mind and grabbing their hearts at the same time.
This leads me to a question, is street art more than something cool you saw on a wall or in an alley? Should street art just be considered like any form of art regardless if you see it in a fancy gallery or not? I think so. All the street artists I know and love have the artistic and creative abilities like well-known artists like Pablo Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh. In the past decade, street art has become more accepted in the mainstream, thanks to the creative genius of Banksy and the success of Mr. Brainwash’s documentary, Exit Through the Giftshop. There are more street artists than ever and street art itself has become more evolved. Sometimes you’ll see street art of people or characters that viewers have to really think and understand the message.
This is why love Morley because he just tells you what he is feeling, then you decide if you like it or not. Simplicity.
“If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” – Albert Einstein
Also, I have never seen street artists actually putting themselves on their pieces. A lot of street artists prefer to keep their identity a secret because they work in a grey area in the eye’s of the law. Not Morley, he wants people to know who made this piece of art. I personally like it because it makes his art more personable and relatable because we can see ourselves doing and thinking about those same things.
I first saw a piece of Morley’s prints a year ago, not on a busy street or intersection but on a board in front of an abandon lot. It stood out from anything around it and was memorable. I think that’s why so many people love street art. It makes other things around it more beautiful especially if you are in a shitty area. Street art doesn’t care if millions of people get a chance to look at it but if it can affect one person then it has done what it’s supposed to do. For example, evoking people’s feelings about how they feel about the art piece. To change people’s mind or least have them thinking about the subject differently. Street art is all about Hearts and Minds.
Morley understands this and this is one of the reasons why I believe he is one of the best street artists in Los Angeles.
Check out this great interview with Morley:
Ryan Fu: What are you famous for?
Morley: Other than my prize-winning skills in animal husbandry, I’m known by some for the posters I wheat paste around Los Angeles and beyond.
Ryan Fu: Do you like being an artist?
Morley: Like any activity that gives us purpose, there’s always a little bit of agony that goes along the gratification. It’s enough to scare off the timid but not enough to kill the intoxicating high one can have in putting on paper the contents of their heart. It’s the fear of ridicule and rejection that’s the hangover you get the next morning.
Ryan Fu: I read your Wikipedia page and it said you were from Iowa. Is there a lot of street art there and why did you move to L.A.?
Morley: There may be street art in Iowa now, but I never saw any of it when I lived there. I like to think of my move to LA as a journey not unlike that of an immigrant traveling to America at the turn of the century, chasing a naive dream built on the myths that floated out of Hollywood of independent filmmakers of the 90s finding fortune and creative glory making the films that inspired me as a kid. Once I got here, I discovered that I was just one of about a billion people hoping to distinguish myself from the rest of the crowd. It was my inability to find success and my hunger to express myself in some public way that led to making my posters.
Ryan Fu: Who was your role model or inspiration when you were growing up?
Morley: Growing up I took most of my cues from the artists I admired. Rivers Cuomo of the band Weezer was a big one for me as a kid. This was in the Blue album-Pinkerton era when he was (in my mind) a much more appropriate hero to me than Kurt Cobain or Eddie Vedder could ever have been. As much as I liked their music- I always knew deep down that I wasn’t as ruggedly handsome or fashionably rebellious as either of them. Rivers Cuomo on the other hand would sing about playing. Dungeons and Dragons in his garage and dreaming of getting to dance with the girl he liked. Needless to say, he was speaking my language.
Ryan Fu: If you weren’t an artist, what would you be doing with your life?
Morley: I’d like to think I’d find way of expressing myself no matter what I was doing. The other day I was fantasizing about being a curator at a museum but decided I’d probably be fired for setting up an elaborate display of a flying squirrels attacking a cowboy riding a tyrannosaurus rex and his sidekick, a shark with a jetpack.
Ryan Fu: How did you get started in street art?
Morley: The great thing about street art is that there’s no application and no one who gives one permission to do it. I had gotten my first taste of street art when I moved to New York to attend college at The School of Visual Arts. Soon after I started putting up stickers with my slogans on them around the subway, once I moved to LA, the fact that so few people take the subway led me to go bigger, as to be noticed by a passing car or bus.
Ryan Fu: Do you think street art is more accepted now than it was ten years ago?
Morley: Without a question. I think like most counter-culture artistic expressions, it goes from being seductively taboo to being dismissed by our elders, to being slowly accepted as a benign method of rebellious articulation, to being common and then being exploited and eventually neutered. See also Dadaism, beat poetry, hippie culture, punk rock, etc. This may sound sort of glum or pessimistic but it’s kind of the way of all artistic movements. I think street art is somewhere in the middle of that cycle. It’s up to not only the artists but those who embrace them to keep it a relevant and vital art form.
Ryan Fu: Where do you get your creative ideas or inspiration from?
Morley: I try to mine the frustrations and disappointments of myself and my friends as well as the overall sense of those living and dreaming in Los Angeles. Where as many of my contemporaries may find their fuel in protesting injustice or examining the iconography of celebrity culture, I’m more interested in lending a voice of encouragement or hope through an intimate and perhaps more emotional tone.
Ryan Fu: Do you believe that words or pictures are more powerful?
Morley: I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me- the pictures painted by the RIGHT words have a profound effect that’s unrivaled.
Ryan Fu: Due to the nature of street art, have you ever been harassed by law enforcement, if so, how did you deal with it?
Morley: I’ve been stopped and questioned by the cops. I’ve had my background checked and gotten more than a few lectures- but haven’t yet been arrested. If the police are only a little ambivalent to what I do, it’s probably because I make a point to avoid doing significant property damage and keep my messages positive. For me, the key is always to respectfully listen, take down whatever poster I’ve been caught putting up and promise to never ever ever do it again. Thankfully I’ve managed to convince them and avoid jail time.
Ryan Fu: What is your process on deciding how to say in your pieces and how do you figure out where to place them?
Morley: The phrases in my pieces come to me throughout the day and then I write them down and begin trying to decide how exactly to phrase them. The science is just in trying to convey ideas in as concise a manner as possible. Once I get it, I then try to figure out how it should look on the page. The moment when the piece is done is when it just magically feels “right.” Some times, this can manifest quickly and without much exploration, other times though, it can be annoyingly elusive.
Ryan Fu: What do you hope for when you put your art up for the public to view?
Morley: The dream is that it relates to each person who happens upon it in a unique and significant way. Maybe it provides a kind word that keeps them going, maybe it makes them examine some part of their lives that they’ve left dormant, maybe it just makes them laugh. In any case, if it gives them something unexpected and ideally, leaves them with something to think about.
Ryan Fu: How do you handle criticism?
Morley: Up to now, I have a lot more experience with rejection than with criticism. I wish I could say that nothing bothers me, but one needs some pretty heroic calluses to weather most pointed criticism. I feel like I have a considerably thick skin those with people simply saying “NO” to me, but the moment when you’re embraced by any establishment, it opens a door to a new kind of horror. It’s hard to say what hurts more, if you’re in a band, it would be like every record label rejecting your album- or finding one that will and being made a laughing-stock by every blog and magazine that sniffs out a little blood in the water.
Ryan Fu: Which other street artists do you respect in the game and why?
Morley: I respect any and all artists that have the guts to demand their voices be heard. The thing that I like most is when an artist has such a distinct style that their work is unmistakable. It’s rare to find an artist bold enough to avoid being derivative of the artists they admire.
Ryan Fu: What is your philosophy on: business, relationships, life & art.
Morley: Simply put, just don’t be a jerk. That pretty much sums it all up I think. It’s amazing to me how difficult that seems to be for some people.
Ryan Fu: What are your hopes or goals in life?
Morley: My hopes are for a better, brighter world, full of people who are good at forgiving those who bump into them. My goals are to try to help the world get just a little bit closer to that reality.
Ryan Fu: How long do you see yourself doing street art?
Morley: I’ll do it as long as I feel like it bestows me with a sense of purpose. Putting up posters that may have played some small part in improving the disposition of those trudging through this life, searching for love, validity and acceptance has been what gets me up most mornings. The day that I feel like I’ve said all I can say is the day I’ll finally shut my mouth, so to speak.
Ryan Fu: What advice can you give for young aspiring artists?
Morley: Embrace what makes you distinctive. We all want to be cool- but cool is boring and easily forgotten. It’s un-cool to celebrate your frailty, to raise your weak humanity like a flag and carry it into battle. The great thing is, even if you lose the battle- no one will forget the bravery it takes to enter the fray as you are, without a justification or an apology. And really- isn’t that the kind of glory we all want to be remembered for?
Morley as has book coming out April 15th, 2014. You can check it out along with his art pieces on his website @ www.MorleyBook.com or is personal website is www.IAmMorley.com
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