Alex Duncan – a.k.a. DUNC – started 2020 with a mission: Paint a large (if not the largest) mural in Charlotte.
He wasn’t sure how or where he’d paint his mural, but he was ready to act when the opportunity arose. And, it did.
A few months after setting his goal, Duncan was approached by Vijay Bhojwani of Binaco Real Estate. Bhojwani wanted a mural that could be seen from Binaco Tower, a new, five-story building at 123 E 5th St. in uptown Charlotte. The rooftops of the buildings below the tower (also owned by Bhojwani) were blank canvases.
This was the big opportunity Duncan was looking for. How big? 5,360 square feet to be exact.
MAIN PHOTO CREDIT: André Beckles of CLT DroneShot, LLC (@CLTDroneShot)
An unexpected detour into art
Originally from Chapel Hill, Duncan planned to play college football — first, for the U.S. Naval Academy, and eventually at UNC Charlotte. But, football was not to be.
Duncan had to abandon football after he sustained a serious injury to his knee during his junior year. He chose to pursue an art degree along with his existing English major.
“Surprisingly, art came much more easily to me than sports,” said Duncan. “I had to learn to love it and respect it over time.”
It may not have been a total surprise. While sports was a passion for him, Duncan’s mother made sure arts and cultural experiences were part of his upbringing.
“I’ve always been around many creative things,” he said. “I traveled a lot in my early years and was dragged to musicals, popular museums like the Louvre and different children’s camps. I don’t come from a wealthy family, but I was fortunate that my mom prioritized scraping enough money together to give me and my brother an interesting childhood.”
“I think this is what ultimately gave me creativity and a unique outlook on the world.”
Since graduating from UNC Charlotte, Duncan has worked as a full-time artist in Charlotte on projects ranging from the Metropolitan to recent work in Ninety’s ice cream parlor in University City.
His most sentimental work is a mural he painted in the “NY2QC Kutz” barbershop featuring Colin Kaepernick and Jackie Robinson.
Up on the roof
You can’t see it from the street, but Duncan’s rooftop mural can be enjoyed by those looking down from the towers that surround it, most notably the new Binaco Tower.
Taking well over 300 hours to paint stretched out over the course of many months, the mural was a logistical challenge, due not only to its size, but also to the need to keep proper perspective while working on it from above.
“You start by measuring the surface area by hand, creating a grid of 2 feet by 2 feet boxes,” said Duncan. “I created about 12 separate designs before Vijay and I narrowed it down to one.”
“Even then, the design changed following the sketch. It can be a grueling process having to trust the dimensions you laid down.”
A matter of perspective
The mural — which Duncan decided to call “Charlotte’s Massive Masterpiece” after an appearance of WBTV’s QC Life — would have been difficult at any time. He’s also heard others call it the “QC Garden of Eden.”
But, COVID-19’s impact on uptown made the effort a bit more challenging … and added another layer of meaning to the process.
“When COVID hit Charlotte hard, it became the perfect opportunity to create something uplifting and inspiring to represent the strength [among] the people of Charlotte,” said Duncan. “I wanted to make it for the city of Charlotte and incorporate an uplifting message – WE ARE TOGETHER.“
3 Things to Look For in DUNC’s Mural
While the mural itself is difficult to see unless you’re in a tower above (or viewing it by drone), there are also aspects of the work you may miss upon first viewing. So, we asked Duncan to share three things to look for in his rooftop mural:
PHOTO CREDIT: André Beckles of CLT DroneShot, LLC (@CLTDroneShot)
“[T]he design is meant to symbolize the connection Charlotte holds as a city, even with the unfortunate challenges that pull us apart,” he said. “The focal point of the design is the beautiful queen accompanied by two birds that hold the thread that sews the broken land together.
“The message WE ARE TOGETHER is written at the bottom. The queen is not only part of the artwork, but is the artwork. She is the Queen City.
“The color and design of this artwork is meant to be vibrant and structured. The primary colors of … green and blue … are easy on the eyes. But, [I also used] red, yellow and purple to make it exciting. Too much of those exciting colors can overwhelm the viewer, so it was important to make it subtle for such a giant piece.
“The design is a collaboration of natural shapes, precise geometry and lettering. Each shape flows into the next, changing colors, but never changing shape.”
“This artwork, like most of my work, is a mixture of several styles. I believe it combines cubism, constructivism, realism and pop art collage. There is also quite a bit of lettering.
“My primary goal is to create works that are emotionally grabbing, vibrant, riddled with different suggestive meanings and intricacies. I wanted this style to relate to anyone, not just the typical art connoisseur.”
3) HIDDEN FEATURE
“The most interesting hidden feature is the purple bird, moon/sun and blue 4 that create the area code 704. The plane was also perfect for North Carolina and the flight challenges the pandemic gave us.”
Click the image below to watch Alex Duncan on QC Life
Paint a Few More Strokes with Alex Duncan
Follow him on Instagram: @x.dunc
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