Make Clouds of Thought, Not War: An Interview with MCOT
It’s just a fact that museums and galleries are the best places to see art? Right?
What if I told you the one best places to see art is while you’re standing on a corner, waiting for the light to change? Or on your short walk from the parking lot to work? Or sitting in rush hour traffic? Next time, glance at the stickers on the light post.
Take a moment to look at the new mural that has been painted on the side of the building next to where you work. Look at the graffiti on the underpass while you wait for one car to make it through the next light. It may not be what you learned about in Art History class, but it’s someone’s work. It’s their attempt to reach out and share their world with you.
Although graffiti and stickers are typically viewed with a negative eye, they often contain messages of positivity. Or, at the very least, they can be fun to look at. Urban artists help fill the nooks and crannies of our city with color and share little surprises in the most mundane of places. It’s time to start taking greater notice.
At least, that’s what MCOT thinks. And, before you say you’ve never seen MCOT’s work … I promise you that you have. More times than you’ll ever realize.
MCOT (which stands for Making Clouds of Thought), has embraced urban art as a way to share their ideas across Charlotte via sticker bombing and mural painting. MCOT graciously joined us for an interview to discuss making urban art in Charlotte and hoping to create “clouds of thought” in our community.
Due to the nature of MCOT’s work, this conversation took place via email and under a promise of anonymity.
Q: What is the inspiration behind the name Making Clouds of Thought?
The inspiration behind the name Making Clouds Of Thought comes from Sunday newspaper cartoons. When a cartoon character has an idea or a thought, the artist writes the character’s thought in a cloud rather than in a talking bubble. So, you could say the art I make starts as a cloud of thought. When it’s received by the audience, it can create new “clouds of thought” for the viewers. It’s all about spreading ideas and perspectives like clouds moving over the land.
Q: Why did you choose urban art as your medium? How do you think your graffiti, mural and sticker projects help spread your message in ways that another medium couldn’t?
Urban art became my medium of choice because when I started, I was a young man who had a lot to say to the world. My generation was born on an Earth that needs help.
Growing up, my peers and I were often getting brushed off by adults who acted hopeless about fixing obvious issues in society. Urban art was how I could speak without being ignored. In galleries or on social media, your audience usually chooses to seek out a style of art. But in the streets, you are able to touch the hearts of the homeless and the hearts of the 70-hour-a-week business workers on their walk to work. That’s who I feel could really benefit from a little more color in their life. On top of that, I want to prove to my audience that they are capable of making a big impact toward a greater good. I want to show people to not be afraid to stand up and use their voice when they see change that needs to be made.
Q: What kinds of reactions does your art receive from the community? How do you hope your art inspires the community?
It would be a lie if I led anyone to believe that everyone has agreed and enjoyed all of the art and decisions I have made in the past. It took listening to the community around me — especially painters who have more time under their belts than myself — to find the right walls to paint in my own opinion today.
Once I was able to solve how to do it more respectfully, the responses improved greatly overall. My adolescent work was very pure with love, strong direct intentions and cluelessness of what I was really doing to my city. It was beautiful and wild, but clearly needed refining. After going through several shoulder dislocations and two surgeries to my painting shoulder, I had a lot of time to think. I realized that I didn’t need to paint such direct messages with art in order to spread a positive impact publicly.
Today, my hope is to provide the community with a visual reminder to appreciate how humans and nature interact in harmony. Now, I focus on creating powerful, truly deep subliminal messages instead of depending on directive quotes to speak to my audience like I used to.
Q: We’ve seen your stickers all over the city, especially the soldier with the red blindfold. What is the meaning behind it?
The soldier is universal, meaning that it has no country of origin to represent. The blindfold is red to represent the blind fury that results from fallen or injured family and friends as a result of warfare. War (and really any ill intentions toward other humans) is a vicious downward cycle of selfish and hateful actions. We act as if it is part of who we are as living creatures.
What makes humanity special is that we have the power to put our energy into either growing life or taking it away. The blindfold is supposed to shed light on the idea that we don’t have to let prior pain keep us from learning to trust other humans again. We need to earn each others’ respect back through generations of positive action if we want to grow as a species in harmony with the earth. It’s the sticker I put up the most because in a sense they are like a little army of peaceful messengers.
Q: Do you have any words of advice for members of the community (artists or otherwise) on how to make their own “clouds of thought?”
First of all, you don’t have to make art to make your own clouds of thought. When your gut tells you something needs to be done and you are the person who can do something about it, that’s what is going to make a positive change in the world. Sometimes it’s as simple as starting a real conversation with your quiet elderly neighbor or the cashier at your grocery store.
Now, if you are eager or already getting your hands dirty with urban art, remember that it takes many years to reach your full potential. Be patient and keep working. Be social with the art community even if you don’t want your name and face attached to your art. Be humble and learn from other artists — even musicians and photographers — close to you so not to damage your art community. What will take a long time to reach as an artist is the ability to push the limits of art itself. It is more than okay to make art for pleasure so continue to do what gives you peace as an artist.
For myself as an artist, I am always most impressed with other artists when they try to tap into what makes their art unique and different from anything anyone has ever seen before. If you study many forms of art openly and put them all together, the result is a pretty good glimpse into your raw unleashed mind and that’s pretty cool.
Q: Bonus Question: If you could slap one of your stickers anywhere/on anything in the world, where would you? Why?
I suppose the coolest place I could ever put a sticker would be on a wooden post on top of the highest mountain I ever end up hiking. A piece of me can always be looking from that view.
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