In today’s society, more often than not, we are going to war with one another – a weaponry of words in hand as we enter the moral battle of what’s “right” and “wrong.” Sometimes it’s hard to remember that we still have platforms in which people can unite rather than fight, bringing us back to our intrinsic human quality to grow and thrive as a species. Art at large is a window for this level of person-to-person interaction, but artist Morley’s combination of words and art specifically targets us all, each in a different way. Read our interview with the street artist below.
Please tell me about yourself. Where are you from? Did you always have an interest in street art and writing?
My name is Morley. I’m a street artist based in Los Angeles, California. I discovered street art when I attended college in New York at a place called The School of Visual Arts. I had moved there from Iowa and become fascinated by the blossoming street art scene of the early 2000s. I was majoring in screenwriting at the time and found the notion of creating art for an audience without having to go through the endless battalion of gatekeepers and middlemen intoxicating.
I was seeing artists like Shepard Fairey and Neckface getting up in my neighborhood and while I liked their stuff, I wanted to send messages a little more candidly communicative so my style started to develop from there.
What is your most favorite part of the art/writing that you create? What are your goals?
My favorite part of what I do is the sense of connecting with the people who see my work on a personal level. Whenever I experience art that articulates something I felt but couldn’t express, there’s such a sense of relief. I strive for that in my work first and foremost.
The fact that I express these ideas in an illegal fashion, as opposed to through art that is commissioned, is important to me as I have no commercial filter, no agenda beyond creative expression. The fact that people may see it one day and the next it’s been painted over or torn down speaks to the temporary nature of things and the need to be awake and alive in each moment because it won’t last long.
What inspires you to do what you do? Where do you get your ideas for your street art?
What inspires me to create my art is the hope of offering someone solace in discovering you aren’t alone in your struggles, which is why I include a portrait of myself in my pieces. I want my messages to come from another person, someone they share the trenches with. Los Angeles, like many major cities, is packed with people on the verge of giving up or questioning why they haven’t yet. I know these feelings well and if I can offer a few words of hope, encouragement, advice or even just humor, then my mission and my art has value.
As an artist did you have any struggles, and if you did how did you overcome it?
I struggle in the same ways as most people. I’ve been dumped and fired and rejected. I’ve lost loved ones and become frustrated by dreams that didn’t come true. These are not uncommon things and yet it’s so vital to know we’re not alone in our struggles- so putting up my work and feeling that sense of unity with anyone who might happen upon my work and feel a connection to it is satisfying not only in the hope that they won’t feel alone- but the knowledge that I’m not either.
What has been the happiest moment in your career so far? The saddest moment?
The happiest moment has to be receiving an e-mail from someone who said they were considering suicide and saw some of my work and changed their mind. It doesn’t really get more rewarding than that. As far as sad moments, I’ve had people who have come to my gallery events who died and while making connections with people on an emotional level is incredibly gratifying, it makes it that much harder when you lose them. I may not have known them for a while, but when you share the emotional trenches of LA they start to feel like family.
What should every aspiring writer know about writing?
The most important thing any artist of any medium can do is to find their voice. It’s difficult to create art that isn’t your best imitation of the artists that you admire but the best thing you can do is mine your heart for what defines your perspective.
The most gratifying thing an artist can experience is feeling that regardless of success, they can know that without them- the universe wouldn’t have what they’d created. The world can ignore something if they have some variation of it that’s easily accessible- but if you can find something to express in a way that is uniquely personal, you’re a lot more likely to get a response from someone who has been looking for a voice like yours.
If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of aspiring artists/writers, what would it be?
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?
Follow Morley and his journey of changing the world on Instagram.