Powered by the Mint Museum
By Matt Cosper
October 6, 2018
The walls are talking in Charlotte, if you know how to listen. Open your eyes and look around you. All over the city, muralists are magicians articulating a spectrum of fantastic dreamscapes, sly humor and political messaging, livening up banktown with color and image.
This trend of street art as fine art has been in full swing for decades now internationally, but has only taken off locally in the last five years or so. In recent months it has been impossible to ignore the work popping up in trendy neighborhoods and now it’s official, in the form of the Talking Walls festival of public art and murals. Local artist and educator Mike Wirth puts it this way: “Charlotte is at a point in its growth where investment in its creative culture infrastructure is critical. Surrounded by cities like Richmond, Asheville, and Atlanta hosting popular well-established mural festivals, it just made sense to host Charlotte’s first festival now.”
Wirth and a small group of local artists, creators and culture makers led by Alex DeLarge of Southern Tiger Collective, Kevin Taylor, and Rob Reilly are spearheading the effort to produce Talking Walls. In addition to a roster of local talent, nationally and internationally active artists showing work in the festival include Miami’s psychedelic master Hoxxoh, Portland’s macabre fabulist McMonster and pop psychiatrist Trasher out of Mexico City. Gus Cutty and Jeks are among artists representing other corners of North Carolina. Between October 10 and 13 in spots scattered throughout Charlotte’s north and east sides you’ll be able to see original work by muralists from all over the Americas. Wirth (better known to Charlotte street art aficionados as Dr. Caligari) hopes that the festival will add oomph and staying power to what is becoming a boom in the local art market. “We started this effort with a five-year plan. Each year we will invite new artists, paint new walls and collaborate with more partners,” Wirth said. “We want this to spur business owners to see murals as value-adding propositions. We want artists to start calling business owners, writing mural proposals and applying for grants and other public support opportunities. We want to grow and grow big with artists leading the charge.”
The following are the local artists holding down the Queen City:
Arko 83 & Owl
Arko 83 brings a playful and strongly graphic sensibility to the mix in a collaboration with Owl, known for fluidity and an overwhelming accumulation of line in their abstract compositions.
Ensconsed in his BLK MKT studio at Camp NorthEnd, Dammit Wesley (AKA the Black Tyler Durden) creates large-scale works that are political and critical with a larger than life sense of humor to match.
OBSO is a pioneer of Charlotte’s street art scene, putting his name up on walls all over the city for over a decade. Look for cartoonish figures and a classic graffiti script style in OBSO’s work.
Hyperrealist Nick Napoletano brings big fine art energy to his murals, working with allegory and idealized human figures in a playful way. His thoughtful and peerlessly executed compositions often turn their subjects, quite literally upside down.
Garden of Journey
Georgie Nakima makes work that pays homage to her ancestors while keeping an eye toward building a better future. Her work is geometric, color saturated and science inflected.
Check out the full list of events for Talking Walls art and mural festival in Charlotte October 10-13, and the Mint Museum’s new initiative recognizing local artists.