For the past several years, Mor‘s exquisitely-fashioned stencils have been surfacing on the streets of NYC and beyond. I had the opportunity to speak to Mor earlier this week at Con Artist, where she was preparing for tomorrow’s opening at City Bird Gallery.
When did you first get up on the streets? What was your medium at the time?
I started almost five years ago with hand-made stickers. And the following year, I pasted up my first one-layer stencil – a face looking upward — in Williamsburg.
What inspired you to work with stencils?
When I was in middle school, I was living in Bushwick — in its early stages of gentrification. I remember passing Swoon’s work on my way to school. Its beauty astounded me. She is my greatest inspiration. And C215’s amazing work – that surfaced in Brooklyn back then — also moved me to experiment with stencils.
What about the streets? What was the appeal of the streets to you?
I love the notion of creating something beautiful and just giving it to others.
Were you ever arrested back then?
I was once caught tagging with a black marker, and I ended up spending the night in jail. It is a risk that all street artists take.
How did your family feel about what you were doing?
They were positive, encouraging me to do what makes me happy.
Do you have a formal arts education?
I am, for the most part, self-taught. But my art teachers always encouraged me.
Any thoughts on the graffiti street art divide?
There definitely is a divide, and there will always be some kind of beef between graffiti writers and street artists. It’s not cool when a street artist goes over graffiti. Nor is it cool when a writer tags over street art. But I think the media – particularly the Internet – is partly responsible for the beef.
How do you feel about the role of the Internet in this scene?
It has definitely changed the playing field! It’s great that it gives permanence to a transient art form. But — on the negative side — it boosts a type of showmanship, while giving exposure to mediocre artwork.
What inspires you these days?
Much of my inspiration comes from my dreams. I’m also into mysticism.
Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?
Tribal ones have the most influence.
Have you collaborated with other artists?
I haven’t in the past, but I will be painting with Ian Bertram at City Bird in preparation for our joint exhibit.
How do you feel about the movement of street art and graffiti into galleries?
As my father is an artist, I grew up around galleries. I do think, though, that there is something sterile about galleries as compared to public spaces. Showing in a gallery is very different from getting up on the streets. And I don’t feel that the art world understands art — not just street art, any art!
How has your work evolved in the past few years?
The streets have energized me to keep pushing myself. I feel that I’ve grown so much in just finding my process.
Have you any preferred surfaces when you are out on the streets?
I love brick walls — the way art ages on brick walls. And I like smooth doors because they’re easy to use.
How would you describe your ideal working space?
At the moment I have my ideal working space — here at Con Artist. I love my Con Artist family. But I can imagine some day sharing a huge space with the extraordinarily talented Ian Bertram, a constant source of inspiration!
What percentage of your time is devoted to art?
As much time as I possibly can — when I’m not dealing with family responsibilities or bartending, my main source of income.
Any thoughts about the marketing of graffiti by the corporate world?
We all know that the corporate world is filled with scoundrels and pirates, but we also know that as artists, we need its financial support.
What do you see as the role of the artist in society?
It is the artist’s role to channel deeply seated emotions and creativity in a positive way. It is an essential role.
What do you see as the future of street art?
I have no idea where it’s going. There’s been too much hype around street art. But graffiti will always sustain. Someone will always be writing his or her name on a wall.
What’s ahead for you?
I just want to continue to channel my creativity into living a productive life as an artist, while engaging and, hopefully, enriching others. Tomorrow night I will be showing my newest pieces, alongside Ian Bertram, at City Bird Gallery.
Congratulations! That sounds great!
Photos: 1 and 7 City-as-School intern Zachariah Messaoud; 2, 4 and 5 Lois Stavsky; 3 Sara C. Mozeson & 6 Ian Bertram