Interview with Morley (and 101 artworks)

Street Artist Morley

This is an interview with the Los Angeles (California, USA) based artist Morley and some of his street art.

1. When, how and why did you become an artist?

The sort of cheesy but true answer is that I believe we’re all born artists but at some point we let the world convince us otherwise.

The more practical answer is that I’ve been passionate my whole life about telling stories and self expression and when I moved from Iowa (where I was raised) to New York as a film student to attend the School of Visual Arts, I was exposed to a whole range of different art forms that I hadn’t explored before, which was a huge inspiration.

New York is of course known for its street art and discovering an art form that didn’t require a ton of money or permission was alluring. I started making stickers at first and then it expanded from there. 

2. How do you see your role as an artist today?

I would say that my role as an artist is to offer the relief that comes in discovering that you are not alone in how you feel- the joys and the sadness, the triumph and the tragedy.

Knowing that another person shares in how you feel and can find words, visuals, sound, movements, (etc.) to capture it, explore it and come a little closer to understanding it is a kind of communion between us all.

It can also help us understand perspectives that we are not familiar with, and build empathy. These are pretty vital things in life and being part of that experience is all I’ve ever aspired to.

3. How would you describe your working method?

I try to find something I think or feel that I’d like to see if I was leaving work after a long day or just trying to keep my chin up- and see if I can express it in as concise a way as possible.

The kind of message you can read if you’re driving past it at 25 miles per hour. If I can pack a big idea into only a few words I’ve succeeded. Then I use those words along a drawing of myself because I want them to be coming from another person- someone as unglamorous and real as they are.

I want to offer words from a friend, a comrade, someone who shares the trenches with them. Then I print these out and look for the best environments to paste them into.

4. Can you name some contemporary works of art or projects that inspire you?

There’s a ton of great artists that I love but a few I’m particularly inspired by at the moment are the various public installations by Michael Pederson, the newest album by Lucy Dacus and the cartoons of Ross Bryant.

5. How can artists be paid for their work and at the same time maintain a critical attitude towards the commercial art market and public funding partners?

I’m not sure I’d be able to answer for anyone but myself. I think the trick is to stay keenly aware of your personal convictions- what matters to you, what feels important- when you don’t have anyone trying to pay you for your work.

If money starts finding its way to you- keep your convictions close and try to only compromise if you’ve given real thought and consideration. To me, the only real way to sell out is if you abandon what matters to you. What that looks like can’t be defined by anyone but you. 

6. What would you like to change in the street art world?

The backbiting is a real drag. I wish we all supported each other in the scene more. I understand a bit of drama from time to time but it serves no purpose to spend your time fighting with another artist. I make art for people who aren’t familiar with the politics of the street art community and I wish more artists felt the same. 

“We’re all just winging it. The good news is you’re feeling stuff, you know? And you’ve got to hold on to that. You get older, and you don’t feel as much, your skin gets tough.”
In the best of times, we must count on those who love us to remind us who we are and where we come from.
Like an old bike in the garage, take it out for a spin.
Lego Morley is really proud of his latest wheat paste. At one point, he nearly fell from his ladder while putting it up! Luckily he’s pretty easy to put back together.
“For a second I was almost jealous of the clouds. Why was he looking to them for an escape when I was right here beside him?” – Kamila Shamsi
I get the feeling that there are a lot of deep cover optimistic operatives in this world of cynics. But maybe I’m just being optimistic.
“Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?” – Frida Kahlo
Some memories require a bigger hole.
…and getting tangled with you was the best thing that ever happened to me.
I saw the window behind this electrical box and thought this slogan was appropriate
“What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other’s folly – that is the first law of nature.” – Voltaire
Living fast and dying young is like writing four chapters of a book and then saying “it’s done!” You’re only ensuring that everyone who reads it will feel cheated.
“Ghosting” is one of the most infuriating social behaviors of my generation. The notion that simply not responding to someone is an acceptable way to communicate “no thanks” is absurd. C’mon people, we’re all better than that. Let’s respect each other enough to know that we can handle hearing “you seem like a great girl/guy but I don’t really feel a connection” or “hey, thanks for inviting me but I won’t be able to make it” or “sorry, we went in another direction” or even “sorry, I’d help you move but I just really don’t feel like it.” I feel like we all would rather hear NO than silence. Because silence is just NO without common courtesy. You’re not saving anyone the pain of rejection- you’re telling them they’re not even worthy of your rejection. That you would rather simply forget they even exist- which is much more cruel in my mind. Let’s all be big boys and girls and just be honest with people and simply say “no thanks.”
The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades! …prescription shades because the future is also kinda blurry and I’m not sure if I’m headed in the right direction.

Distance makes the heart grow crazy.
I am constantly surprised by life. Good and bad. I’m not sure I’d have it any other way.
Make the most of every moment. Collect them into jars with little holes in the lid like so many fireflies- and know that one day you will have to let them go.

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” – E. E. Cummings
“Don’t forget in the darkness what you learned in the light.”- Joseph Bayly
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