Mario moves to NoDa
Posted on 17 Sep 2009 by Desiree Kane
photo: James Willamor; view this photo on Flickr
In 2007 Super Mario Brothers images started popping up around the UNC Charlotte campus and quickly became an Internet phenomenon, including a fan page on Facebook. Inspired by this original art, a new Mario artist has emerged in NoDa. He is a well-rounded conversationalist and artist who is interested in being provocative in the same way. I tracked down this elusive character and got the skinny on NoDa’s most talked about street artist du jour. Have a look!
When I first noticed the Super Mario art it was on Anderson Street in the industrial area near North Davidson Street. It was a series of three stars, one of which was unfinished. What struck me about them was their symmetry even though the series was incomplete. I then noticed the star on North Davidson Street near 36th, and finally, the well hidden whistle (which has since been removed). When I stumbled upon these my first instinct was to contact CLTBlog photographer and contributing writer extraordinaire James Willamor to see if he had photographed this artist’s work. Not to my surprise, he had shot some of them.
There’s something about locating someone who does anonymous street art. The elusive, mysterious qualities of locating a street artist were further exemplified when I found the artist. He turned out to be just as mysterious and captivating as his art. From the green star on the 3rd floor of the new Fat City Lofts building, to the hilarious pink frowning star over in the courtyard of Revolution Pizza, the diverse, lighthearted nature of the NoDa Super Mario street artist is apparent.
I sat down for a little less than an hour with the artist and found much more than a person who just likes to spray paint his surroundings. The symmetry I noticed in the series of stars was a result of holding an architecture degree, beautify his surroundings and the wish to inspire people to reflect on their childhood.
“Even you coming in here, that’s the point of me doing [the street art],” he said of my visit to the local venue where we spoke. “I was really inspired by the UNCC artists and was really upset when they pressure-washed [the art] away.”
Contributor James Willamor was able to contact the original UNC Charlotte Mario artist, Henry Davis, for comment. Davis says of the original artwork, “the whole sort of essence was simplicity.” The recreations of the video game sprites were “verbatim, pixel for pixel.” Davis also says the original artwork was “cute and harmless” because it was done in chalk.
James also contacted Brandon Hicks for comment. Hicks assisted in the creation of six of the UNC Charlotte pieces. “Once the Mario art made it to the school news paper and was implied that it was vandalism, my girlfriend at the time and I created the ‘Free Mario!’ Facebook group and invited as many people as we could in hopes we would finally get in touch with the original artist. Once we did, Henry [Davis] and I started planning a large scale piece that was going to be four times the size of anything he had done before. When we finally did it in the Fall of 2007 I think, it got some hype because it was large and a cop showed up, and there was talk of it especially on the Facebook group.”
Hicks says he spotted some of the art while passing through NoDa recently. “I was very excited to see that it had spread to a wider audience.”
The debate between street art, graffiti, and vandalism will no doubt continue. The new Mario artist, when asked if there were any plans for more art, declined to say, though he did say there were things that were being thought about for specific, strategic locations around the city.
A slideshow of some of the recent NoDa Mario art:
photos: James Willamor; view this slideshow on Flickr