Street artist, Morley, creates inspiring, thoughtful and at times, humorous pieces that sometimes invoke a warm Public Information Poster. Based in Los Angeles, you can find his work on electrical boxes, sides of buildings, benches, old real estate signs and abandoned fast food restaurants. Morley started creating street art while living in New York during the early 2000s while attending the School of Visual Arts. At the time, he was silk screening slogans on contact paper and putting them up around the subway. After moving to Los Angeles, he realized that his slogans and messages could become a "friendly voice amongst the cacophony of billboarded messages and corporate slogans." In early 2011, Morley's work caught the eye of Steve Lazarides of Laz Inc whose The Outsiders imprint began selling prints of his work. Killswitch had the pleasure of interviewing Morley this week. Be sure to check out his work here: IAmMorley
What got you interested in Street Art? Was there a particular artist or piece that inspired you?
I think the thing that hooked me was the ability to have an audible public voice in a world that seems to be getting increasingly crowded with noise. These days expressing yourself is a difficult task as nearly all methods have either been exhausted by the sheer number of participants (YouTube, Blogs, etc), exploited by those angling for profit (the film festival world) or corrupted by giant corporations. I loved the idea of having a way to communicate that didn't require rallying friends to help or spending thousands of dollars. I didn't need permission. I didn't need validation. I just needed my ideas and a bucket of paste.
You attended school in New York and Los Angeles, but you are originally from Iowa. Have you ever put anything up around your hometown in Iowa? Or maybe on the I-74 Bridge or Rock Island Centennial Bridge?
I haven't been back to Iowa in a few years. I've been meaning to return and put up a few pieces. One day I'm sure I'll find the time.
We read that you put up a piece in the Picadilly Tube (which we can imagine was nerve-racking). Is there any "riskier" place you would like to put your work up?
Actually the tube piece didn't seem particularly risky when I put it up. While the entirety of London seems covered by those CCTV cameras, I can't imagine they're watched by someone waiting to sound an alarm 24 hours a day. Putting up a poster takes all of 60 seconds and the trick about it is that it takes around 20 minutes for the wheat paste to dry so if you're caught in the act of putting up a poster, it's not difficult to apologize and peel the poster off. Nine times out of ten, if you clean up your mess, an authority figure will send you on your way. I also go out of my way to pick spots that won't leave any kind of lasting damage and are easy to paint over or remove. I have never been interested in doing property damage per say, so I imagine I'm really just a nuisance to those who don't like what I do. The only spots that make me nervous when I'm posting are the ones in which I'm in some degree of danger while I post. A highway underpass or a spot in which climbing is involved, the idea of getting hurt is more a little more sobering to me then getting a slap on the wrist for minor vandalism. Plus, these days covering medical costs seems a little more daunting than fines and community service.
Are there any structures or public spaces you've tried to post on but just physically could not?
I tend to gravitate to the more visible, in-your-face spots, like electrical boxes and boarded up buildings. I admire artists that are full on Spider-Men and get all the high up, hard to reach spots, but I enjoy giving a viewer the opportunity to get up close and personal to my work. It usually leads to being taken down more quickly but it also means that people are confronted in a more intimate and immediate fashion. The mission is always the message so I'm not as preoccupied with impressing other street artists with daredevil theatrics.
You were asked by a cafe to put up a poster on their building for a grand opening. Is there a "dream" business or building you would like to be ASKED to adorn?
The Great Wall of China would be pretty great. You don't get much better than a structure visible from outer space. It's not very likely though that I'll be asked to paste on that any time soon. I guess a boy can dream.
We see that your work mostly consists of creating pre-made posters and gluing them up when you get to selected locations, but you also make the artwork on site occasionally. How do you make your decision in choosing between these two different ways of making street art, and how does it affect your creation process?
It mostly depends on time. Some times it takes less time to write my slogans with paint markers and then paste up a life size version of me "writing" the words than to paste up a poster of that size. I usually prefer the posters though, as controlling as much of the design as possible before arrival is key.
How long do your pieces stay up? Are there works out there that have been up for years?
I'd say on average a piece I put up will last about a week. Some last longer, some get buffed after only a day or two. I've had very few that have lasted more than a month but it does happen from time to time. The longest ride one of my posters has had is about a year and counting. I think this is because whomever owns the property that the poster is on seems to like it and at the same time, other artists haven't liked the spot enough to take it over. With those two bases covered, you just gotta hope that the weather is mild.
You've mentioned that you try to be respectful of other street artists' works and not post over them or intrude on the space. Have you ever seen some really really bad art and thought, "This is awful, I should really just post over this?"
Not really. I've taken spots back from people, but that usually doesn't have anything to do with the art itself. Art is subjective and the only valuable critique of a piece of art is making something that you feel "does it right". What's bad to me is great to someone else. There are plenty of people who don't care for what I do, so to afford them the same courtesy I expect for myself seems natural. I'll cover an advertisement. It bugs me when corporations try and co-op street art and start "viral" campaigns in some attempt to gain credibility, but beyond that, I wouldn't cap something because I didn't like the piece. It's kind of a waste of energy as given a week or two, the piece will be painted over anyway. Perhaps I just haven't seen anything hateful enough to rile me up though.
One of my (Amanda) favorite pieces of yours is, "I promise you're not just a waitress," which was based on a true story about your sister quitting her waitressing job. Are there any other pieces you can think of that have become real life art?
Almost every one of my posters comes from some real part of me. The litmus test I hold for every slogan is if it holds some measure of truth (even beneath a layer of humor) for me or those I love. I think if my work has any weight to it at all, it's because I try to take truths from my life and boil them down into an essence that can be communicated in a concise way to those who might relate. My work is pretty worthless if no one relates to it so if I didn't, I wouldn't know where to start.
Your day job involves working in reality television. We would imagine you see all sorts of "characters" vying for a chance to be on TV. Do their desperate (presuming you see a lot of that) personalities or emotions ever influence your work?
Absolutely. I've seen quite the array of subtle desperation. It's an epidemic here in LA. We've created a culture of people who worship celebrity and have convinced themselves that their lives have no value unless someone else decides that they're special enough to watch for 22 minutes. It's easy to pass judgment on people who subscribe to this, but I try to be empathetic. If I could just give all those people a hug and convince them that their potential for greatness is so far beyond ten million people getting tired of seeing their faces on tabloids, I would. Since that's not possible, I use my posters to challenge and encourage and hopefully undo even a little of the brainwashing that basic cable has caused- and perhaps that I've contributed to with my day job, which I guess you could say is my attempt at penance.
Can you tell us a little about Lazarides Inc. and The Outsiders and your involvement with them?
The Outsiders (a company run by Steve Lazarides) is based in England and they sell my artwork. They represent some truly amazing artists and being among their roster is a real privilege. When I started doing this, it never occurred to me that anyone would want to buy something of mine, but when I started getting requests, it became important to me to associate myself with people who could be trusted and, beyond that- could help me grow as an artist without pushing me in a direction that would compromise my principals. It's really important to me take it slow and not get too big for my britches. Humility is a vital part of perspective and once lost, it becomes very difficult to relate to others, which in turn would have a dire effect on my work. While I'm not adverse to profiting off of my art, I really don't want that to motivate my artistic decisions and thankfully Laz is one of the rare variety of business men who understands the value of a career over a fast buck, a fact proven by the quality of artists that associate themselves with him.
Any parting words of wisdom?
It doesn't get much more wise than the following quote by Alfred Lord Tennyson: “Though much is taken, much abides; and though we are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are; one equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will. To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” I couldn't agree more.
If you're interested in seeing more of his awesome works or learning more about The Outsiders, be sure to visit the sites below:
IAmMorley Facebook Page