Morley is the guy putting up wheat-paste posters with phrases plastered on them, along with his own image, around the LA area. His posters are thoughtful, curious and almost evoke a sense of feeling like things don't have to so bad. Whereas many street artists choose to remain an anonymous mystery, Morley does the opposite. Not only does he include an image of himself on each poster, but takes to his blog to further discuss the process and even lists the location of each piece. Here, Morley discusses further some different aspects about street art.
1. How did you first get interested in art?
I suppose I got interested in art the same way as everyone else, through the things that entertained me as a child. Anything that gave my imagination fuel to explore the various recesses of my mind and the worlds that exist within them, would be quickly devoured by my young eyes and ears. Films, music, cartoons, comics- they were and still are a sort of relief from the drudgery of every day life. The difference between when I was a child and today is my reverence for such things. Being given the privilege to create anything that might give someone else a similar relief is a gift that I don’t take for granted.
2. How did you get involved with street art and what made you decide to start?
I was raised in Iowa City for most of my adolescence and had never heard of ‘street art’ until I moved to New York in 2000 to attend college at The School Of Visual Arts in Manhattan. I started to see work by people like Neckface and Shepard Fairey and became absorbed by the idea of creating art with the sole purpose of giving it away to anyone who noticed it. I was never interested in graffiti or tagging as much as I was in communicating an actual message. In speaking into the lives of a sea of strangers that might wander past. I began silk-screening slogans and quotes on to Contact paper that I would stick in subway cars and throughout the city. At the time, it still hadn’t occurred to me that this was ‘street art’ as the term wouldn’t gain traction until years later. When I moved to Los Angeles, I discovered a new breed of people I wanted to speak to. I returned to my goal of saying something encouraging, funny or relatable but as people travel in cars, I knew that I needed to go bigger. I started making posters. With that came the desire to add something that would give an identity to who the message was coming from. I thought that if I included a picture of myself, it would create a bond between the reader and artist. They would see the messages as coming from a kindred spirit, a friend. Things just started evolving from there.
3. How would you describe what you do to someone who might not grasp the concept or idea behind it?
It would depend on how much animosity they had towards people they view as ‘vandals’. In its most basic form, I’m just trying to leave messages for people to stumble over with the hope that it’s the kind of thing they need to hear. Whether it’s as simple as “I promise you you’re not just a waitress” or something a little more cerebral like “the curse of imagination is picturing the world as it should be”, my goal is always to inspire, encourage or commiserate with someone. In my mind, this is worth the negligible damage that wheat paste and posters could do to a piece of public or private property, but there are others who would disagree.
4. What do you feel is your main purpose behind your art?
I like to think, my art is a lot less about me than it is about the viewer. A lot of artists create from the desire to get it ‘out of their system’, others do it to educate or express their opinions. These are totally valid reasons to create, but for what I do, I believe the viewer is a most vital part of the process. It’s the viewer that gives the piece its significance by bringing their own lives to the experience. The degree to which someone relates to something I’ve written or which doors it unlocks in their memory is the only measuring stick to which I can rate a piece’s success. Since I’m not there for 99% of the interactions between someone who sees a poster of mine, I am afforded the luxury of assuming the best.
5. How do you feel about your art either being destroyed, torn down, buffed, etc. within an unknown time frame?
It can be bittersweet but I do my best to believe that my messages only stay up as long as they need to. That the people that needed to see it got the chance. On a financial level it can be frustrating to see a larger poster that cost 30 dollars to make only last a day on the street but it comes with the territory. On the other hand, there’s something sort of beautiful about the temporary nature of street art. That someone might see something of mine that’s gone the following day gives a value to the immediacy of a moment. I find that kind of fleeting beauty is often under appreciated.
6. How do you choose the spots for each piece to be put up?
There are always two major things you look for in a good spot- how many people will see it and how long will it stay up. Usually however much it has in one of those, it decreases in the other. For example, a spot on a rooftop might last longer but a lot fewer people will see it than an electrical box that’s right in front of their face. I generally go for the short-term spots that a lot of people will see. The other thing I try to gauge is how much damage I’m going to do on the spot. I never want someone to see a poster of mine and say, “What a nice sentiment… it’s such a shame he had to ruin that person’s store front to make it.” So I look for bored up buildings, public spots that aren’t going to incontinence anyone or advertisements.
7. What inspired you to come up with phrases and post those up, as opposed to another form of street art and will you ever go in another direction art wise?
The reason I was drawn to phrases was that I consider myself a writer first. I am passionate about the written word and the effect it has on people. The fact that it’s both specific and yet completely open to interpretation has always fascinated me. I enjoy the challenge of telling a little story in a single phrase or sentence, of getting across a profound idea in as few words as possible and letting the viewer fill in everything else with their own histories and perspectives. To that end, I still do my best to evolve as much as I can on a visual level. As that process continues I’m not really sure where it will take me but I always try to keep an open mind.
8. After you put something up, you'll take a picture and give some insight into it on your blog, while most street arts do not take that approach...What made you do this?
For me, the blog was an extension of putting myself on all of the posters. It was a chance to connect on a more personal and intimate level with the audience. Many street artists prefer a level of secrecy, mainly for self preservation, something I can appreciate- but for me, I wanted to do something different and, almost as an alternative to artists like Banksy, create a bond between myself and the people who like my stuff. Speaking into someone’s life requires both honesty and vulnerability and the blog gives me the chance to offer that.
9. How would you describe the phrases you use?
I generally use the term ‘slogans’. In the dictionary, a slogan is defined as: “A distinctive cry, phrase, or motto of any party, group, manufacturer, or person”… Or “a war cry or gathering cry.” I think those definitions suit what I do just fine.
10. If you could wheat-paste any one building, location, anywhere, where would it be?
The Great Wall of China. It would take a lot of paper and paste but I can’t imagine a more bad-ass spot in the world.